Azerbaidjan - Sham trial of two bloggers on trumped-up hooliganism charges

MONTREAL, Sept. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - 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."

SOURCE News - Media

For further information: For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive Director, Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4188, Fax: (514) 521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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