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Two bloggers attacked, arrested

(IRFS/IFEX) - The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and Media Rights Institute (MRI) strongly condemn the arrest of young activists Emin Milli (Emin Abdullayev) and Adnan Hajizade, who are known for their contributions to Azerbaijan's civil journalism.

On 8 July, at approximately 8:00 p.m. (local time), Alumni Network Youth Organization coordinator and ANTV Online TV Leader, Emin Milli, and one of the youth organization's coordinators and well-known video-blogger, Adnan Hajizade, were sitting at a table in a restaurant along with several other young adults, discussing the internet activity of youth organizations, when two athletic-looking men came up to them, insulted them, and demanded that they stop talking about politics. Then they attacked Milli and Hajizade, who sustained physical injuries. The restaurant staff and other youth interfered to save them from the attackers. Hajizade's nose was broken and he sustained bruising on his face, around his eyes and on other parts of his body. Milli sustained several injuries to his face, and possibly a cracked bone in his foot.

Milli and Hajizade immediately reported the incident to the police and asked them for medical assistance. However, they were not provided with any assistance. Milli and Hajizade demanded lawyers who then went to the police department to represent them. However, police did not allow the lawyers to see Milli or Hajizade. Although they appealed to police as victims, police detained them under article 221.2.1 (hooliganism) of the Criminal Code after five hours of interrogation and then freed their attackers.

Police have not provided any official information about the detention of Milli and Hajizade, and for 17 hours, the two were deprived of the opportunity to meet with their lawyers. Although the incident occurred on 8 July at 8 p.m., the lawyers were not able to meet with Milli and Hajizade until 9 July.

IRFS and MRI believe that these unlawful actions of the police and the people who beat up Milli and Hajizade violated the two blggers' rights, as envisaged in Azerbaijan's Constitution and the European Human Rights Convention, as well as rights and freedoms envisaged in other international documents. Specifically, MRI and IRFS, believe that the rights to freedom of expression, to freedom and inviolability, prohibition against torture and inhumane treatment, the right to legal defense, and to not be subject to discrimination due to socio-political views and work, have been violated in this case.

IRFS and MRI declare that the real reason for the detention of Milli and Hajizade is their promotion of free thought and nonconformist ideas among youth. On the charges of hooliganism, Milli and Hajizade could be imprisoned for up to five years according to Azerbaijan's Criminal Code. An analogous case to this one occurred in Azerbaijan at the end of 2007 when well-known "Azadliq" newspaper Editor-in-chief Ganimat Zahid, who was severely critical of the government, was imprisoned for four and a half years on charges of hooliganism. Zahid, who is internationally recognized as a prisoner of conscience, remains wrongfully imprisoned on trumped-up charges of hooliganism to this day.

IRFS and MRI call on Azerbaijan's government to immediately free Milli and Hajizade and to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those people who attacked and inflicted serious bodily harm against these two activists.

IRFS and MRI call on the international community to demand that the Azerbaijani government immediately release Milli and Hajizade.
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