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Bloggers assaulted and on trial for being "hooligans"

Two bloggers are in court in Azerbaijan and have been charged with
Two bloggers are in court in Azerbaijan and have been charged with "hooliganism," while supporters outside the court wear T-shirts that say "I'm a hooligan too"

via IRFS

The trial of two young bloggers in Azerbaijan facing charges of "hooliganism" and "deliberate physical violence," in a hearing on 16 September, was marked by irregularities and the arrest of supporters, report the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

According to RSF, on 8 July, Emin Milli and Adnan Hadji Zade were seated in a restaurant when a few men approached them and assaulted them. Although they contacted the police, the bloggers were detained as suspects for 48 hours and the attackers were released, reports IRFS. Then on 10 July, the Sabail court sentenced Milli and Zade to two months' pre-trial detention.

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 defense lawyers, but the judge rejected it, says RSF. Milli and Zade have been denied access to a lawyer during their detention and the so-called "victims"-two of whom appeared in court- have never produced any evidence of the injuries they claimed to have sustained from the bloggers.

"The trial of the two bloggers is happily violating all the norms of European law to which Azerbaijan is subject," RSF said. Azerbaijan has signed the European Convention on Human Rights. "Their arrest and probable condemnation is being driven by political motives and a desire to censor."

Supporters of Zadeh and Milli stood outside the courthouse wearing T-shirts with the words "I'm a hooligan too," say RSF and IRFS. They were arrested and taken to a local police station.

Journalists and NGO representatives were barred from the hearing. However, representatives of the embassies of the United States, France, Norway, the European Council and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe attended. The third hearing was held on 18 September.

Zadeh's father, Hikmat Hadji Zadeh, told RSF: "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."

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