Azerbaijani bloggers imprisoned after unfair trial

From Amnesty International on 18 November 2009:

Azerbaijani youth activists and bloggers Emin Abdullayev (aged 30) and Adnan Hajizade (aged 26) have been sentenced to two and a half years and two years respectively in an unfair trial. Amnesty International believes the charges against them were fabricated and they have been imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

On 28 June, a satirical video made by Adnan Hajizade criticizing the Azerbaijani government was posted on the video-sharing website YouTube. On 8 July, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Abdullayev (who blogs under the name Emin Milli) were approached by two men as they were dining with friends in a restaurant in the capital Baku. The men demanded to know what they were talking about. When Emin Abdullayev replied that it did not concern the two men, one of the men head-butted him and he fell to the floor. The same man then struck Adnan Hajizade, knocking him to the ground, and continued to kick and beat Adnan Hajizade and Emin Abdullayev until restaurant staff intervened.

Adnan Hajizade and Emin Abdullayev immediately went to a local police station to report the incident. However, police officers interrogated them as suspects for five hours, denying them access to a lawyer of their choosing and arrested them on charges of ‘hooliganism’. The activists were remanded in custody pending their trial. They were later also charged with inflicting minor bodily harm.

During their investigation the police and prosecutors 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 which wrongly stated that Adnan Hajizade was unemployed and that he had a criminal record. According to the activist’s lawyers, at the trial the court refused to consider photographs showing the injuries they sustained in the attack, as well as video evidence from mobile phones and the security camera, but provided no explanation as to why. The two men were convicted and sentenced to two and a half and two years respectively in prison. Emin Abdullayev and Adnan Hajizade intend to appeal against the decision.

There is a letter calling for the release of Emin and Adnan, which you can send to President Aliyev, the Minister of Justice, the Ombudsperson and the Azerbaijani Ambassador in London.