The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's prison sentences given to two video bloggers detained in July on fabricated charges of hooliganism and inflicting minor bodily harm.
Judge Araz Huseynov with the Sabail District Court in Baku handed Emin Milli who runs an online video blog known as ANTV, a two and a half year jail term, and Adnan Hajizade, a video blogger and coordinator of the Azerbaijani youth movement Ol!, a
two-year prison sentence for allegedly harming two men in a restaurant, according to international press reports.
Milli and Hajizade had posted political and socially satirical video sketches that criticized government policies and social issues in the weeks prior to their initial arrest in July. They had interviewed local residents and posted their opinions online,
sharing them through networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Among the issues discussed on their blogs were education, corruption, and the poor infrastructure in Azerbaijan.
Baku police detained Milli and Hajizade on July 8, after the bloggers reported that they had been physically attacked at a local restaurant. Milli and Hajizade were debating politics with friends when two unknown men interrupted their conversation and
started a brawl, they said. When the bloggers went to report the incident, they were arrested for hooliganism ; it turned out, the men who had attacked them had told the police that they had been the victims. The bloggers had been in custody since
their initial detention. A second charge, inflicting minor bodily harm, was added later on.
Both domestic and international rights groups have condemned the arrest of Milli and Hajizade as staged by authorities in retaliation for their blogs' critical content. In a number of entries, the two interviewed local residents and filmed street
gatherings in protest of official policies. According to multiple sources, a satirical video the bloggers produced and posted on YouTube in late June was the main reason for their incarceration. The video criticized Azerbaijan's alleged import of donkeys
from abroad at excessively high prices. The video sketch depicts a pseudo press conference, at which Hajizade, wearing a donkey suit, talks to a group of Azerbaijani journalists ; Milli reportedly filmed.
We call on Azerbaijani authorities to scrap these fictitious charges against Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade and release them, CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. Police entrapment such as provoking a fight has
become a tool for silencing critical journalists and writers in Azerbaijan.
Commenting on the guilty verdict today, Judge Araz Huseynov said it was based on police reports and the alleged injuries of the two plaintiffs, Emin Huseynov, the director of the Baku-based Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety, whose
representatives were monitoring the trial, told CPJ. Huseynov added that the judge had ignored witness testimony by restaurant patrons who said they saw the two men attack the bloggers and not vice versa.
25th August 2010. Based on
ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned by the Azerbaijani Supreme Court's decision to uphold rulings in the case of bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade. ARTICLE 19 believes that Milli and Hajizade, who are imprisoned on charges of hooliganism, were targeted
for expressing opinions critical of the Azerbaijani authorities.
On 19 August, the Azerbaijani Supreme Court considered the case of imprisoned bloggers and youth activists Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade. In its decision, the Court upheld the lower courts' rulings, which convicted Milli and Hajizade of hooliganism and
sentenced them to two and a half years and two years of imprisonment respectively.
Milli and Hajizade's lawyers plan to apply to the European Court of Human Rights now that the domestic appeals process has been exhausted. The OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media and the Council of Europe High Commissioner for Human Rights have
both expressed concern regarding Milli and Hajizade's imprisonment, noting that the move seemed to be an attempt by the Azerbaijani authorities to silence critical voices.