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Bloggers sentenced in hooliganism case

(IRFS/IFEX) - The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) condemns the imprisonment of Alumni Network Youth Organization Coordinator and AN Online Television Head Emin Milli (Abdullayev) to 2.5 years and OL Youth Organization co-coordinator Adnan Hajizade to 2 years and believes the verdict to be politically motivated.

On 11 November 2009, Sabail District Court Judge Araz Huseynov found the young bloggers guilty under the indictment of "hooliganism" and issued a verdict to imprison them.

IRFS believes that although the young bloggers were accused of "hooliganism," they were arrested for posting critical material about the government on the Internet.

On 8 July, Milli and Hajizade were assaulted and sustained injuries after they were dragged into a provocation. Although they appealed to the police as victims, the Sabail District Police Department detained the two bloggers as suspects and freed their attackers.

They were placed in pre-trial detention for two months while a criminal case was opened against them. The young bloggers were not provided with the necessary medical treatment for their injuries while in police detention and were not allowed to see their lawyers. The investigation of the criminal case opened under article 221.2.1 (hooliganism) of the Criminal Code was conducted with serious violations of the law and the two bloggers faced charges under a different article (127-inflicting intentional minor bodily harm) once the proceedings of their case had already begun. From the beginning of the investigation, procedural violations were noted and evidence that the bloggers were innocent and that their arrest was politically motivated emerged during the proceedings.

IRFS believes that the long-term imprisonment of the young bloggers is aimed at scaring away youth activists who have democratic ideas. In addition, the sentence is intended to prevent those who have alternative opinions in Azerbaijan from criticizing the government via new media in the run-up to the 2009 municipal elections and 2010 parliamentary elections. The right for youth to be able to voice these opinions is very important to socio-political life in Azerbaijan.

IRFS reminds the government of Azerbaijan's commitment to freedom of expression and human rights in its signing of numerous international agreements in this area. By throwing people with democratic ideas in jail, the government damages the international image of Azerbaijan and compromises national interests in the international arena.

IRFS calls on the government to immediately annul this politically motivated verdict against the young bloggers and release them. IRFS further calls for the immediate release five other journalists (Eynulla Fatullayev, Ganimat Zahid, Mushfig Huseynov, Faramaz Allahverdiyev and Sardar Alibeyli) whose arrests are also politically motivated.

IRFS calls on the international community to demand that Azerbaijan's government respect freedom of speech and other human rights and adhere to the country's commitments in this area.
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Case history

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