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Beaten activists sentenced for two months while investigation goes on

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On 10 July 2009, a session of Sabail District Court of Baku, chaired by Justice Rauf Ahmedov, has sentenced two civil society activists - Emin Abdullayev (Milli) and Adnan Hajizada to two months of pre-trial investigation detention. Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada are accused of ‘domestic group hooliganism’ according to Article 221.2 of Criminal Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

However, in judiciary practice, such defendants usually get released on bail or end with a house arrest. According to law expert Erkin Gadirli, two months of pre-trial detention is the maximum period that a law-breacher can receive, and this type of detention is usually conditioned with disturbing criminal past of detainees, their liaisons inside and outside of the prison, as well as degree of their dangerousness, possibility of their escape, degree of graveness of the crime, etc. Surely, with no criminal records or behaviour, Emin and Adnan recieved the harshest verdict possible.

Even visiting German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, Günter Nooke was not allowed to attend the trial. The Chairman of Sabail District Court Justice Gulzar Rzayeva refused to let in Günter Nooke or anybody else by pointing out that the trial is held behind closed doors in accordance with Azerbaijani laws. While around 150 supporters of Emin and Adnan, as well as residents of neighborhood, international and local NGO representatives, foreign diplomats and Mr. Nooke waited outside at the tightly closed door of the court house, the court sentenced both activists to two months of detention in presence of indicted and their lawyers, but refusing to listen to witnesses and bringing in the 'victims' of the alleged hooliganism act.

During these two months while Emin and Adnan are in detention, the investigation has to be concluded and their case brought before the judge. If the investigation is not concluded, their detention period can be extended for additional two months. While detained, they won’t be able to receive any guests, instead of their lawyers. They will be held in a new detention center in a town of Kurdokhani, a small town in an hour’s drive from Baku.

Emin Milli is one of prominent civil society activists in Azerbaijan and helped to forge a powerful but flexible Alumni Network (AN) - an incredible pre-Facebook era social network and strong mobilization force for country’s youth.  Four days ago, on 4th July, Emin was a speaker in a Heinrich Böll Foundation roundtable dedicated to a democratization process in Azerbaijan, where he strongly criticized the Azerbaijani government for its anti-democratic practices.

Adnan Haji-zadeh is one of the founders of OL! Youth Movement, a liberal entity that declares the principles of modernity, non-violence and tolerance. Adnan himself is a pioneer of video-blogging in Azerbaijan and is famous for his video reportages covering problems and challenges of youth and posted in Youtube.

Baku based Institute of Reporters' Freedom and Safety has called Emin and Adnan's arrest 'politically motivated'. Visiting Deputy Secretary of U.S. State Department, James Steinberg has told RFE/RL Azeri Service that they keep this issue under constant attention, while Günter Nooke warned that this incident 'can create a scandal beyond the borders of Azerbaijan' and 'damage her image'.

1 Comment

Anonymous | July 17, 2009 3:00 PM

This is an extremely worrying development, particularly coming hard on the heels as it does on legislative proposals that would, if implemented, have clamped down severely on civil society in Azerbaijan. I'm so glad that Adnan and Emin's situation is mobilising such concern in Azerbaijan and receiving international attention. Scandal is indeed what this case should generate. Shame on 2009 Azerbaijan-style "rule of law".