Several human rights groups on Monday called on authorities in Azerbaijan to conduct a full and transparent investigation into the murder of journalist Rasim Aliyev.
Aliyev, who worked for the ANN.az website, died on Sunday in a Baku hospital after he was severely beaten on Saturday.
Officials have connected the attack to a Facebook post in which Aliyev had criticized a football player, angering his relatives. But human rights groups suspect his killing could be connected to a series of photos Aliyev had posted online showing police brutality and social discontent.
Azerbaijan, ruled by President Ilham Aliyev since he succeeded his father in 2003, has been courted by Western countries because of its role as an alternative to Russia in supplying oil and gas to Europe.
However, various European bodies and human rights groups have accused Aliyev of muzzling dissent and jailing opponents, including journalists, especially since the country was named to host the first European Games, a sort of regional Olympics held in June.
Twelve human rights organizations, including the Sport for Rights coalition, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Index on Censorship, International Media Support and PEN American Centre, supported the appeal.
"As Rasim Aliyev’smurder shows, critical voices are at greater risk now than ever before," Sport for Rights said in a statement.
"The international community must act now to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its human rights obligations and promote much-needed reforms in the country."
Ali Hasanov, the president's aide for public and political affairs, said on Monday that "The president of Azerbaijan rates this incident as a threat to the freedom of speech and information, free activity of the mass media in the country,"