Deported journalist Zeynalov says decision is arbitrary, baseless

Azerbaijani journalist Mahir Zeynalov, who left the country on Friday morning after facing deportation due to his critical tweets about the prime minister, said the decision to deport him is arbitrary as his resident permit expires on March 10.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman from Baku, Zeynalov said the government and the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) social media team on Twitter are circulating misinformation about his legal status in Turkey. He said even though his press card had expired and was not renewed by the Turkish authorities, as he is married to a Turkish citizen he is allowed to extend his residence permit. However, although Zeynalov had already made an appointment to extend his work permit on March 10, the authorities acted arbitrarily by issuing a document instructing him to be deported whenever he is caught by the police.

“My wife and I did not return home in the last three days because they might have detained me,” Zeynalov said, adding that since he faced deportation and possible confinement prior to that, he decided to return to his home country.

Zeynalov said after AK Party propagandists on Twitter leaked on Feb. 3 that he would be deported, he decided to leave Turkey before the police took him. Zeynalov went to the airport in the early hours of Friday morning and turned himself in to the police at the airport.

“I told them there is a deportation order for me and I would like to leave the country,” Zeynalov said. According to him, the police denied that there was such a decision but he heard the police officer who accompanied him up until passport control telling his fellow officer to “stamp absolute deportation [on his passport] and send him.”

“If there was no order about me issued, why did the police accompany me up until passport control and told me that I cannot go do my prayers alone?” Zeynalov asked. He also noted that instead of the regular passport lane, the police took him to a separate lane where there was no one else.

He also referred to a phone call which the editor-in-chief of Today’s Zaman received from a police chief, asking him to make life easier for them by turning in the journalist.

Before his exit from the country, Zeynalov was also issued a fine of TL 103 because he was not allowed to leave the country while his application for the extension of his work permit was being processed.

Zeynalov’s wife, Sevda, also accompanied him to Baku. “Her life has also been victimized,” Zeynalov said. According to him, in order to punish him, the state has also effectively sent a Turkish citizen into exile.

He says that he will consider taking legal action against the Turkish authorities for the arbitrary decision which made him leave the country.