Azerbaijan: Blogger trial continues

hands_off1In the same week that Threatened Voices, an online project to map bloggers under attack worldwide was launched, the trial of detained video blogging youth activists Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli in Baku, Azerbaijan, continued. The last court hearing was adjourned because witnesses did not turn up. Media Helping Media comments on the latest developments in what many consider to be a politically motivated case to silence dissent in the country.

The trial of Adnan Hajizade and Emin Abdullayev (also known as Milli) was adjourned ten days ago after a brief appearance by the two on hooliganism and violence charges.

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Those campaigning for the release of the two men suspect that there may be political reasons behind the delays.

Media freedom groups have been protesting about the arrests and detention and claim it is part of an effort to limit freedom of expression.

Two days before the trial, Emotions on Air, Mind Mute, a newly launched English-language Azeri blog, reflected on the the case against the two young activists.

I started to intensely think about Emin and Adnan. I came to be proud of their parents,teachers and elders. I became curious about books they have read. I got jealous of friends they have, as they were lucky to know these great men personally.

Now it hurts very much that they are in prison. Their great time of lives has been stolen. Their summer has been taken away. Their parents spend sleepless nights. They have been deprived to enjoy their work, make mistakes, hang out with youth and talk to them. Their email inboxes are flooded with messages and run out of extra space.

But they keep on inspiring youth. They are hoping and planting seeds of liberty. They are spiritually free despite that their physical freedom is limited.

[…]

I think of my future now. How will it be? Will it come at all given the society I live in. Will I be arrested one day? My kids I will have.. if ever. […]

All I know is I want them to be hooligans like Emin and Adnan.

Nevertheless, many of Hajizade and Milli's supporters remained resigned to more delays.

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As it was, the hearing was held although witnesses displayed selective memories. As usual, friends and supporters of Hajizade and Milli used new and social media such as Facebook and Twitter to update others.

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The fact that key witnesses and the alleged victims themselves were unable to provide testimony prompted one supporter to hope that the trial might now end.

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However, although it was proven that the two activists had reported an incident of physical assault against themselves, missing key evidence soon gave many reason to fear the worst. [Update: Eurasianet has since reported that the phone records were ruled inadmissible by the judge]

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Amidst criticism that the authorities are stringing out the trial indefinitely, their fears were probably well founded. Despite calling a break, the hearing was not resumed.

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Yet, while the action against Hajizade and Milli looks set to continue in a trial considered by the international community and local civil society organizations to be highly flawed, perhaps the last laugh went to Hajizade and Milli's supporters who noticed the irony when the two activists were taken away.

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The following day, two English-language bloggers from Azerbaijan reacted to the aborted court hearing. Both seemed pessimistic and unhappy with how the trial has been conducted to date, but nonetheless said they would continue to fight for the two men's release.

In particular, L4L shared his observations from the hearing, and specifically on the decision not to enter phone records in Hajizade and Milli's defense into court.

During today’s hearing of “Wild-beating-taekwando-champions-bloggers-Adnan-and-Emin” case I was able to enter courtroom for the first time. Mixed feelings of what was happening. I saw Emin and Adnan, saw how strong they are. And this made me happy and proud. I had dozen or so rounds of laugh in the expense of “victims” Vusal and Babek. I was annoyed as hell.

Azercell answered to enquiry of the court and gave reports on calls made on July 8 by “victims” and Adnan. […] reports of Adnan’s calls shows that he was in the 39th police station. This little fact demolishes the case of the prosecutor. This shows that Adnan and Emin weren’t brought to police station handcuffed. […]

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Then Vusal showed that he is “real Caucasian man” with valor and strong feeling of “qeyret”. He asked judge not to give Azercell’s report on his calls to defense. “I don’t want them to disturb my relatives and those close to me”. […] naturally, judge is “real Caucasian man” too, so he understood Vusal’s tender feelings and was with him on that.

Anyways. Amnesia. Adnan and Emin answered few questions after Vusal and Babek and they were so clear and accurate, contrast was almost scary. […]

[…] People like Emin and Adnan who made their choice and are proudly standing by it. Who will not back off. We should help their case. Only this way this nation will shake its AMNESIA.

Meanwhile, Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines remembered events to date, but also looked to the future.

Its been 4 months since Emin and Adnan's arrest- time goes by but somethings simply don't change. […]

[…] happiness and sense of victory slowly disappeared as in July, two youth activists- Emin Milli (30) and Adnan Hajizada (26) were arrested and charged with “hooliganism” and are now facing up to 5 year of imprisonment. They didn't do anything- they were attacked by two men who are now treated as “victims” and are set free while Emin and Adnan are spending their time behind bars. But they are keeping their chin up. […]

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Looking back it makes one wonder will there ever be a change? Will people actually enjoy their lives rather than worry about making extra money to feed their families? Will our youth be able to study in corruption free universities and actually get a descent education? Will people be happy again? For now, there is only one answer, time will show so let it go by but be patient and hopefully we, or our children, or our grand children will see that change…

Incidentally, the date set for the next hearing (11 November) will coincide with a roundtable discussion on the case at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

Hooliganism or Freedom of Speech? The case of two bloggers detained in Azerbaijan

On July 8, 2009, two bloggers and political activists, Andnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, were arrested in Azerbaijan on charges of “hooliganism”. The bloggers were detained shortly after posting a video on YouTube mocking the Azeri government's purchase of donkeys from Germany. After nine trials, the two bloggers (both without prior criminal records) remain imprisoned. The four presenters will form a panel discussion to speak about this particular case of the bloggers and what it means for freedom of speech in Azerbaijan as well as the greater Caucasus region.

Present for the event will be Parvana Persiani, Hajizade's girlfriend and a senior figure in the OL! Azerbaijani youth movement, who will also be attending next week's World Blogging Forum in Bucharest, Romania.

Global Voices Online will interview her there and Persiani will also feature in a live online interview on Kosmoshow.

Full coverage of the detention and trial of Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli is available in the Azerbaijan section of Global Voices Online and on the OL! Blog (in English and Azeri). The hashtag #EminAdnan is also used on Twitter.

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