An Azerbaijani video blogger living in exile in France who has vehemently criticised Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev was wounded in a stabbing attack, police said on Tuesday, as a press freedom group denounced an attempt to ‘silence’ him.
Mahammad Mirzali, 27, was attacked on Sunday afternoon in the western French city of Nantes where he lived, a police source, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
Several individuals rushed out of a vehicle to punch and stab him, fleeing the scene and leaving the victim with multiple wounds including to the head.
He was taken to hospital but his life is not in danger, said the source.
Mirzaili was running a YouTube channel called made in Azerbaijan where he posted videos with bitter personal attacks on Aliyev, his wife vice president Mehriban Aliyeva and other family members.
‘A sharp critic of Azerbaijan’s authoritarian Ilham Aliyev and his relatives, he was already attacked last October,’ press freedom group reporters without borders wrote on Twitter.
It said Mirzali was ‘regularly threatened and blackmailed because of his posts on YouTube’ and denounced what it says was a ‘brutal attempt to silence a critic of the regime’.
Aliyev, who has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003, is regularly accused by rights groups of trampling on freedom of expression in the ex-Soviet state.
But the hydrocarbon-rich nation on the Caspian Sea has also cultivated close ties with Western governments, in particular the United States and Britain.
In an audio interview posted online, Mirzali said he had lost a lot of blood and alleged ‘Ilham Aliyev will be responsible’ if he lost his life.
‘I will not shut up, I will continue speaking out,’ he said.
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