On 20th of July, Baku Court of Appeals was going to consider the cases of Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli, two youth activists and bloggers recently beaten and detained in downtown Baku and then sentenced for two months of pre-trial investigation detention.
Friends and acquaintances of the detainees, as well as members of local youth movements have extensively used new media tools, such as Facebook and weblogs to spread the news and gather supporters in front of the court.
For instance, Mamedovali [RU] wrote in two languages – Azeri and Russian:
Завтра в 14:00 Аппеляционный Суд Будет рассматривать Дело Аднана Гаджизаде и Эмина Милли(Абдуллаева).
Приглашаю всех в знак поддержки прийти в 14:00 к Апелляционному суду.
Sabah saat 14:00-da Azərbaycan Apelliasiya Məhkəməsi Adnan Hajizadə və Emin Millinin(Abdullayev) işinə baxacaq. Hamini Dəstək olmaq üçün Apelliasiya Məhkəməsinin qarşisina gəlməyə təklif edirəm.Tomorrow, at 14:00 the Court of Appeals will consider the case of Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli (Abdullayev). I invite all to come to the Court of Appels to show their support.
Matthew Collin from Al-Jazeera, who also blogs for UK-based Frontline Club and has a personal blog titled This is Tbilisi Calling, has arrived in Baku to cover the case of detained bloggers just in time for the appeal hearing:
I'm in Baku to cover the case for Al Jazeera, and people working in what remains of the independent media here in Azerbaijan have been telling me they are increasingly nervous about who the authorities might target next. This is a country where critical journalists have often been jailed, assaulted and even killed, where international broadcasters have been forced off the airwaves, and where television is relentlessly pro-government. Now anti-government bloggers have received what some of them perceive to be a warning not to step out of line too often.
Just hours before the court appeal, two alleged ‘victims’ of Emin and Adnan's hooliganism unexpectedly appeared in public. In their appeal, as reproduced by Journaleast [AZ], they plead the Azeri media “not to let them be victims of false accusations” and “to write the truth and assist in emergence of the truth.“
Thoughts on the Road was somehow furious about their appeal:
[…] Amazing. In this account, Emin and Adnan are depicted as ruffians, drinking and swearing in a restaurant. Babek Huseynov and his associates were just some peaceful guys who wanted some peace and quiet, so they approached Emin and Adnan, asking the guys to quiet down. You can read the rest of it in the article. The fact that Emin and Adnan were pro-democracy activists is not mentioned in the [appeal]. Of course.
Now, I have never met Emin or Adnan personally and I was not in that Lebanese restaurant that night. I have, however, eaten in that very restaurant. It was noisy when I ate there. I find it incredible that Emin and Adnan were being that much noisier than anyone else. So much noisier that these fellows came over to ask them to quiet down. Why did these fellows have to take matters into their own hands? If Adnan and Emin were so out of hand, would the management allow them to be so disruptive? Perhaps if Emin and Adnan had been well-connected government officials, this might be possible. But they are not and the scenario described here is completely implausible.
No, the story published here doesn't smell right at all. It isn't even logical. But logic has never been an essential ingredient for government propaganda.
I was livetweeting outside the court sending regular updates to my followers. Here is a selection from my tweets:
After three hours of waiting, the lawyers of Emin and Adnan came out of the court with a new that their appeals and all objections refected:
Learning the news from Twitter, Thoughts on the Road came up with a bitter post:
The news via Twitter is that the appeal of Emin Milli & Adnan Hajizade has been rejected. Not many more details available at this point. On the Facebook pages this morning – expressions of disgust & frustration. The natural regret for hoping against hope that an undemocratic government would respect human rights. But the face of the Azerbaijani government is unmistakable. It is not democratic. It is not concerned with human rights. It is not concerned with fairness or justice.
Tweets from supporters of the two Azerbaijani bloggers arrested and detained on 8 July say their appeals at separate hearings have been rejected.
The two men, Adnan Hajizada and Emin Abdullayev (Milli), now face two months detention before their trial on hooliganism charges will take place.
Al-Jazeera's Matthew Collin summed up the events of all these days in a short paragraph as below:
Friends of two detained internet activists in Azerbaijan sang and wept in the street outside court yesterday after their appeal for release was dismissed. Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli were arrested for ‘hooliganism’ after allegedly being involved in a fight in a restaurant in the capital, Baku, but their friends believe they were targeted for their use of online media like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to build support for pro-democracy youth groups in this oil-rich but politically intolerant country. This satirical video, featuring a talking donkey, is the most celebrated example. There’s more on their activities in the OL! Movement blog, while their case has become an international issue partly due to their own networking skills and the mainstream media's post-Iran obsession with online culture, but also thanks to the tireless work of other bloggers, like the team at Global Voices Online.
Matthew Collin also prepared a video report for Al-Jazeera on detained Azeri bloggers which was also posted on Youtube:
After hearing the news, Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines wrote a long post about her frustration which ended with an pessimistic note:
There are messages circling on Facebook saying to stay strong and be united. I couldn't agree more!
Incidentally, tomorrow 22 July is the National Media Day in Azerbaijan. On this day, in 1875, an Azeri intellectual Hasan bey Zardabi published what is now considered the first Azeri newspaper Akinchi (The Cultivator).