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European Court to examine case of two bloggers who were unjustly jailed

(RSF/IFEX) - 2 September 2011 - This month, the European Court of Human Rights will examine the complaint that Azerbaijani bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade filed in January claiming that their detention from July 2009 to November 2010 and their conviction on trumped-up charges violated articles 3, 5, 6, 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The two bloggers are seeking official recognition that the Azerbaijani authorities violated their rights. Although they are now free, their release is only conditional and their convictions have not been overturned.

Milli, one of the founders of "The Alumni Network" movement, and Hajizade, a video-blogger and member of the apolitical "OL! Youth Movement," were detained for alleged hooliganism but the real reason for their arrest was their criticism of the authorities and the fact that they had disseminated a video making fun of corrupt politicians.

Arrested in Baku on 8 July 2009 when they went to the police to report that they have been physically attacked, Milli and Hajizade were charged two days later with hooliganism under article 222.1-0 of the criminal code. Although Milli had a badly injured leg and Hajizade's nose was broken, they were not given the medical treatment they needed. This violated article 3 of the convention, which bans torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 5 of the convention protects the right to freedom and security. It says a person may only be detained when suspected of a crime or when sentenced to imprisonment. They must be informed of the reasons for their arrest and they have a right to be tried within a reasonable time or to be released pending trial.

Milli and Hajizade were held for two months before the start of their trial and were still being held when the last hearing took place more than four months after their arrest. In a report to the UN Human Rights Council on 31 July 2009, the Human Rights Committee of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the Azerbaijani government's repeated use of the charge of hooliganism to gag free expression.

The complaint filed by Milli and Hajizade says that article 6, on the right to a fair trial, was violated because they were allowed only belated access to their lawyers and because the court took no account of what their lawyers said.

Article 8 on respect for private and family life was violated, according to the complaint, because the two bloggers were denied family visits while held and certain family members were not allowed to testify at the trial.

Article 10 protects the right to freedom of expression, including the "freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers." It was violated because Hajizade and Milli were clearly jailed for criticizing the authorities and disseminating a satirical video about corrupt politicians.

Hajizade and Milli filed a complaint before a Baku court on 8 July 2009 about the violation of their rights. It was rejected on 23 July 2009. A separate complaint accusing the interior ministry, Baku police and prosecutor's office of failing to respect the right to be presumed innocent was rejected on 10 August 2009.

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