"The Azerbaijani authorities have an obligation to protect Akram Aylisli," Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "Instead, they have led the effort to intimidate him, putting him at risk with a campaign of vicious smears and hostile rhetoric."
The war over Nagorno-Karabakh has left a legacy of deep-seated hatred between the former Soviet republics. Leaders frequently trade barbs, and minor cross-border clashes have resulted in many fatalities since the cease-fire was officially declared in 1994.
Last week, Aylisli told The Associated Press that he intended his novel to serve as a call to peace between the bitterly opposed countries and that he hoped an Armenian writer would write a similar work. "I didn't think it would be so politicized. I wanted to show that Azerbaijanis and Armenians are not enemies," he said.
Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry and the presidential administration didn't respond to telephone calls Tuesday seeking comment about the author's treatment.
Leonard reported from Almaty, Kazakhstan.