Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reporters Without Borders Decries 'Sham' Trial of Azerbaijan Bloggers

Reporters Without Borders is urging Azerbaijan Judge Araz Huseynov to heed the calls by human rights organizations 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.” Charges the reporter's rights organization labels a "sham."

“We reiterate our call for the release of Zadeh and Milli,” the press freedom organization said in a statement. “They were arrested for political reasons and the charges brought against them are clearly baseless.”

Zadeh, who blogs under the name of Gadjizade, and Milli were arrested on hooliganism charges in Baku in 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 September 4th in a room that was so small that court officials used it as grounds for limiting the access of the public and press. Defense attorneys asked that the proceedings be moved to a larger room but Judge Huseynov denied the request on the grounds that "state secrets" were involved.

The judge also rejected the defense lawyers’ request for an additional investigation to be conducted into charges. The purported victims, Reporters says, have never produced any evidence of the injuries they claimed to have sustained in the incident.

The defense lawyers also complained, to no avail, that their clients had been denied access to consul while detained.

The judge also disallowed introducing videos taken at the demonstration that would prove their clients' innocence. Reporters Without Borders says this refusal to consider evidence submitted by the defense is a violation of the right to due process as guaranteed by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It also argues that 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.

The bloggers’ parents yesterday asked another judge, Elnur Hasanov, to allow them to visit the defendants but the judge won't rule on that request until September 17.

Zadeh’s father, , said: “Azerbaijan’s anti-democratic regime is doing its best to suppress expression," said Zadeh's father, Hikmat Hadji Zadeh, "but the new generation and ours are continuing the struggle for free expression.”

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