Aged 28, the young blogger, slim look and neatly combed short hair, who has around 500,000 subscribers on youtube and facebook, has a body riddled with scars. One of the most important is located behind the neck, a visible trace of his attack on March 14, 2021 in Nantes, where he “thought he died”.

At the end of April, the Rennes prosecutor’s office, in charge of the investigation, announced that four men, three born in Azerbaijan and one in Georgia, had been remanded in custody.

“We have a young man who lives under police protection because the last time we blocked him, we lifted his neck to be able to cut his throat. We send killers who come from abroad and are responsible for killing him, it’s truly staggering and dizzying”, indignant Me Henri Charpentier, his lawyer.

Born on February 5, 1994, Mahammad Mirzali grew up in Goychay, a city of 100,000 inhabitants west of Baku, with an electrician father hostile to the power of President Ilham Aliev. After demonstrating against the regime, Mahammad Mirzali explains that he was unable to enroll in history at university “because of corruption”. He does 18 months for military service, where he says he is the victim of multiple beatings because of his hostility to power.

In 2015, Mahammad Mirzali, who works in a garage, decides to open the blog “Made in Azerbaijan” on facebook where he denounces the attacks on democracy and the violations of human rights. Due to intimidation and violence, he went into exile, like other Azeri bloggers, and left for France, where he acquired political refugee status at only 22 years old.

After passing through Paris, Laval and Perpignan, he settled in Nantes where his parents joined him. Delivery man for a restaurant, he says he was the victim of a first assassination attempt in Nantes in October 2020, while he was in his car, the shooting of a man with a concealed face ending in a shoulder.

– reclusive life –

Then comes the aggression of March 2021, where he receives “about fifteen stab wounds” and undergoes an operation lasting more than six hours.

“The argument given to the Ministry of the Interior to grant him protection was: do you want a new Samuel Paty on the territory, with killers piloted by a foreign state?” Says Jeanne Cavelier, head of the Azerbaijan to Reporters Without Borders.

Under anti-depressants, Mohammad Mirzali leads a life of reclusion, in a secret place and can only leave his home alongside two policemen, cheating his boredom by learning the guitar. “Life is death in France for me”, he mumbles in his hesitant French, dreaming of an exile in the United States for “more security”.

But he promises to continue his diatribes, even if he assures that the regime of President Ilham Aliev, in power since 2003, has “blackmailed him to stop the blog”.

MEP LR François-Xavier Bellamy, who echoed his case in the European Parliament, said he was “impressed by his strength of character” when “all it would take is a few signs of submission and a promise of his silence so that he can return to a normal life”.

And to those who accuse Mahammad Mirzali of launching virulent accusations without proof, Me Charpentier retorts: “This is exactly what was said with regard to Charlie Hebdo, young Mia. Freedom of expression is to say all opinions, even those that are unpleasant to you. To enter into this logic of saying you have sought it is to legitimize the killing of individuals who dare to speak, “he argues.