Reporters Without Borders

Trial of bloggers marred by abuses, arrests

Trial of bloggers marred by abuses, arrests

Published on Thursday 17 September 2009.
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The second hearing yesterday in the trial of bloggers Adnan Hadji Zadeh and Emin Milli on charges of “hooliganism” and “deliberate physical violence” was marked by irregularities and the arrests of some of the bloggers’ supporters.

Journalists and NGO representatives were barred from the hearing, in which two of the three “victims” of the bloggers’ alleged assault gave evidence, delivering identical testimony, while Zadeh and Milli denied all the charges.

“The trial of the two bloggers is happily violating all the norms of European law to which Azerbaijan is subject,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Their arrest and probable condemnation is being driven by political motives and a desire to censor. Judge Araz Huseynov and the authorities ought to be complying with the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights, which Azerbaijan has signed.”

Supporters of Zadeh and Milli who were outside the courthouse wearing T-shirts with the words “I’m a hooligan too” were arrested and taken to a nearby police station.

Representatives of the embassies of the United States, France, Norway, the European Council and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe all attended the hearing. The third hearing is to be held tomorrow.

See a satirical video about the arrest of the two bloggers: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/russia-and-its-neighbors/090720/web-crackdowns-spread?page=0,1


15.09.09. - Sham trial of two bloggers on trumped-up hooliganism charges

Reporters Without Borders urges Judge Araz Huseynov to heed the calls by human rights organisations and governments for the release of bloggers Adnan Hadji Zadeh and Emin Milli when they appear in court tomorrow for the second hearing in their trial on charges of "hooliganism" and “deliberate physical violence.”

“We reiterate our call for the release of Zadeh and Milli,” the press freedom organisation said. “They were arrested for political reasons and the charges brought against them are clearly baseless. We are outraged by the violation of their defence rights and the judicia bias that marked the first hearing.”

Zadeh, who blogs under the name of Gadjizade, and Milli were arrested on patently spurious hooliganism charges in Baku on 8 July after being assaulted by three men, identified as lkin Alizade, Vusal Mamedov and Babek Huseynov.

The two bloggers appeared in handcuffs during the initial hearing held before a Sabail district court on 4 September, in a room that was so small that court officials used it as grounds for limiting the access of the public and press.

The lawyers for the defence asked for the hearing to be held in a bigger room but Judge Huseynov ruled that it should be held in the small room at the request of the lawyers representing the “victims,” who claimed that “state secrets” were involved.

The judge also rejected the defence lawyers’ request for an additional investigation to be conducted into charges. The so-called victims have never produced any evidence of the injuries they claimed to have sustained in the incident.

The defence lawyers also asked the court to recognise that the rights of their clients had been violated inasmuch as they had been denied access to their lawyers during detention. This request was rejected as well.

Additional evidence of the bloggers’ innocence (recordings of the scene of the incident by security cameras and the mobile phones of witnesses) was submitted to the court by the defence lawyers, but the judge rejected it. “If the court is impartial (…) it must take account of the videos,” Isakhan Ashurov, one of the defence lawyers said.

The court also rejected a request for the conditional release of Zadeh and Milli at the 4 September hearing.

The refusal to consider evidence submitted by the defence is a violation of the right to due process as guaranteed by article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Azerbaijan is subject as a member of the Council of Europe.

The refusal to release the defendants between the preliminary hearing and the trial violates article 9.3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This article stipulates that defendants should not be routinely detained when there are other ways of ensuring that they attend a trial.

The bloggers’ parents yesterday asked another judge, Elnur Hasanov, to allow them to visit the defendants, arguing that denial of visiting rights was violating the respect of privacy and family life as protected by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Consideration of the request was postponed until 17 September.

Zadeh’s father, Hikmat Hadji Zadeh, said: “Azerbaijan’s anti-democratic regime is doing its best to suppress expression, but the new generation and ours are continuing the struggle for free expression.”


25.08.2009 - Two jailed bloggers face additional charge

An additional charge of “intentional physical violence” has been brought against Adnan Hadji Zadeh (Gadjizade) and Emin Milli, two bloggers who have been held on a hooliganism charge since 8 July, their lawyer, Isakhan Ashurov, revealed at a news conference yesterday.

The new charge, defined in article 127 of the criminal code, carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison, in addition to the five years they are already facing under article 221 for hooliganism.

In a report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council on 31 July, the Human Rights Committee accused the Azerbaijani government of systematically using charges of hooliganism and defamation to suppress free expression.


11.08.2009 - Court rejects another complaint by jailed bloggers

A Baku court today rejected another complaint by detained bloggers Emin Mili and Adnan Hadji Zadeh (Gadjizade), this one accusing the interior ministry, the prosecutor’s office and the Baku police of failing to respect the principle that a person is presumed innocent until proved guilty.

The two bloggers have been jailed for two months pending trial on clearly trumped-up charges of hooliganism. According to a diplomatic source, President Ilham Aliyev referred to them as “hooligans” during a meeting with an official delegation from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The two bloggers have still not been allowed to receive a visit from family members since their arrest on 8 July. Today’s hearing was held because closed doors. Zadeh’s lawyer, Isakhan Ashurov, said he would appeal against today’s ruling.


23.07.2009 - Court rejects complaints by jailed bloggers

A Baku court yesterday rejected complaints by jailed bloggers Adnan Hadji Zadeh (Gadjizade) and Emin Mili that their rights were violated when they were arrested on 8 July. Yesterday’s hearing was held behind closed doors, which their lawyers said was illegal. The two bloggers were also not allowed to testify.

Their lawyers said they plan to accuse the Azerbaijani authorities of “illegal detention” and “violating human rights” before the European Court of Human Rights.


20.07.2009 - Court confirms pre-trial detention for two bloggers

Reporters Without Borders condemns today’s Baku appeal court decision confirming a two-month detention order for bloggers Adnan Hadji Zadeh (Gadjizade) and Emin Mili pending their trial on trumped-up charges of hooliganism. They have been held since 8 July.

“There are absolutely no grounds for this decision, which bodes ill for free expression in Azerbaijan,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We reiterate our call for the release of Zadeh and Mili, who are being held for political reasons, not because they committed any crime. They have been paying a high price for the dishonesty of the authorities ever since their arrest.”

Zadeh and Mili were not allowed to attend today’s hearing but were represented by their lawyers. One of them described the court’s decision as illegal and said they would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Zadeh’s father told Reporters Without Borders : “Adnan and Emin are being punished for their commitment as citizens and for the videos they posted online.”

Reporters Without Borders wrote to the justice minister on 17 July calling for the release of Zadeh and Mili, who are facing up to five years in prison on the hooliganism charges.


16.07.2009 - Reporters Without Borders wrote to the Minister of Justice

Monsieur Fikret Mamedov

Justice Ministry

Inshaatchilar ave. 1

Baku City

Azerbaijan

Paris, 16th July 2009

Dear Minister,

Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that defends press freedom worldwide, would like to draw your attention to the case of two bloggers, Adnan Hadji Zadeh and Emin Mili, who were arrested in Baku on 8 July and were placed in two months’ pretrial detention on hooliganism charges under article le 222.1 of the criminal code when they appeared before Sabail court Judge Rauf Ahmadov two days later.

We believe that the charges brought against them are baseless. Furthermore, the 10 July hearing was brought forward for no good reason, and the court took no account of what their lawyers had to say in their defence. These are serious violations of their basic rights. We urge you to contact the prosecutor with a view to getting these charges dropped immediately.

Shortly before their arrest, Mr. Zadeh and Mr. Mili were assaulted by two men, Babek Huseynov and Vusal Mammadov. The police arrested the two assailants but then released them and arrested the two bloggers instead.

Mr. Zadeh is a video blogger and member of the “Ol” opposition movement, while Mr. Milli is one of the founders of a youth group called “The Alumni Network”. Mr. Zadeh’s nose was broken in the attack, while Mr. Mili sustained injuries to a leg and other parts of the body. They have not received the medical treatment they need.

We would like to know the real reasons for the arrest of Mr. Zadeh and Mr. Mili, who are facing a possible five-year jail sentence. An application for their release was filed on 13 July. We urge you to examine the case as we believe the dismissal of the charges would send a strong signal of a desire to improve respect for free expression and human rights.

Under article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to freedom is subject to only a few legal exceptions and people may be detained only in certain precise circumstances, for example, where they are suspected of having committed crimes or when a court has sentenced them to imprisonment. Such circumstances do not exist in this case.

The Convention also provides for the right of rapid recourse to a court to determine the legality of an arrest or detention, and for the right to be tried within a reasonable period or to be freed pending trial. The 10 July hearing did not satisfy these rights. Mr. Zadeh and Mr. Mili had access to their lawyers but the court paid no heed to their lawyers and did hear the testimony of their relatives, who witnessed the assault.

According to their lawyers, the judge’s decision to detain them was illegal because there is no evidence that Mr. Zadeh and Mr. Mili committed any offence.

We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration.

Respectfully

Jean-François Julliard

Secretary-General

Reporters Without Borders

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