13 July 2010
Ensure convicted Azerbaijani bloggers receive fair appeal hearing

On 8 July 2009, the bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli were attacked in a restaurant in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku by two unknown men.

They reported the attack to the police but were treated as the perpetrators, arrested, and on 11 November 2009 sentenced to a combined total of four and half years’ imprisonment for "hooliganism" and "inflicting minor bodily harm".

Amnesty International believes that Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli are prisoners of conscience detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

The two activists have used online networking tools, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, to spread information about the socio-political situation in Azerbaijan.

A judge has been appointed to hear the case which indicates that Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli's appeal is due to be heard by Azerbaijan's Supreme Court in the coming months.

During the investigation and trial the police and officials from the prosecuting authority failed to interview witnesses and to obtain video evidence from a security camera which may have recorded the incident in the restaurant.

They also submitted documents to the court containing mistakes about Adnan Hajizade's background, falsely stating that he was unemployed and had a criminal record.

Furthermore the court refused to consider photographs showing the injuries sustained by Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade, as well as video evidence of the incident from mobile phones and the security camera in front of the restaurant which may have recorded the incident, but provided no explanation as to why.

Emin Milli is the co-founder of an online community that discusses politics called Alumni Network, while Adnan Hajizade is a co-ordinator of the youth movement known as OL!, which advocates non-violence and tolerance.

Emin Milli was also an outspoken critic of changes to the Azerbaijani Constitution, which abolished the presidential term limit - allowing current President Ilham Aliyev or any successor to stand for re-election on a continuous basis.

On 28 June 2009, OL! posted on YouTube a satirical video criticizing the Azerbaijani government which Adnan Hajizade had produced.

The video is of a spoof press conference delivered by a donkey. It was posted in the wake of a news story about how the Azerbaijani government had allegedly spent thousands of dollars importing donkeys from Germany in a deal that may have masked corruption or theft of public funds.

The video questions the purchase of the donkeys, the introduction of restrictive legislation for NGOs and the low priority the government gives to human rights.

On 8 July, just over a week after OL! posted the video, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli were dining with five other civil society activists in a restaurant in Baku when they were attacked.

Image: Azerbaijani blogger Adnan Hajizade Copyright: Private

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