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IMPRISONED JOURNALIST WINS RIGHT NOT TO SIT IN CAGE IN COURT

The Azeri Times

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On 30 November a preliminary hearing was held in the case of Afgan Mukhtarli, an investigative journalist accused of smuggling and crossing the border illegally.

The hearing was held in the Balakan, a region of Azerbaijan near the Georgian border where Mukhtarli allegedly entered the country illegally.

The court rejected every motion put forward by the defense except one: Mukhtarli will be allowed to sit with his lawyers at trial. (In Azerbaijan, defendants are often forced to sit in cages in the courtroom.) All other motions were rejected, including requests to obtain surveillance video from the Georgian authorities along the root Mukhtarli allegedly traveled, and to obtain video from the cell where Mukhtarli was first held in Azerbaijan.

According to ifact.ge, Mukhtarli was “vocal and hostile” towards prosecutor Gurbat Mammadov and judge Humbar Salimov. Upon leaving the courtroom, Mukhtarli reportedly told a Georgian journalist, “This isn’t a trial. It’s a show.”

The next hearing is scheduled to be held on 14 December.

On 29 May, Afgan Mukhtarli disappeared in Tbilisi, Georgia, only to reappear under arrest in Baku. Azerbaijani authorities have charged Mukhtarli with crossing the border into Azerbaijan illegally, smuggling (he was allegedly carrying $10,000 at the time of his arrest), and resisting the orders of a police officer. The journalist himself has stated that he was kidnapped in Tbilisi and brought to Azerbaijan against his will.

Mukhtarli is an investigative journalist who has published several pieces at Meydan TV. His last contribution before his arrest was an article about politically-motivated kidnappings in Azerbaijan.

A courtroom cage in Azerbaijan

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Azerbaijan

Journalist Arrested For Criticizing Aliyev, Is Not Allowed To See His Dying Mother

The Azeri Times

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The officials have not responded to the appeal of the convicted blogger Mehman Huseynov, to allow him to visit his dying mother. According to the blogger’s father, Rafik Huseynov, he and lawyers appealed to the administration of the jail, the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice three days ago, in connection with a request to allow Mehman to visit the mother in a coma. However, the answer did not follow.

Mother of the blogger, Frangiz Huseynova, is in the intensive care unit in the Neftchiler Hospital. Last week she had heart problems. She suffered a clinical death. A woman needs a surgery, but under the current situation it is impossible, and doctors are trying to stabilize her health.

The Head of the Department of Prison Service for Public Relations did not give a concrete answer to the question whether Huseynov will be allowed to visit a seriously ill mother. According to him, all appeals will be considered in accordance with the procedure established by law.

It is important to note that, blogger/journalist Mehman Huseynov is among the farce critics of Aliyev and the regime. He had hundreds of thousands followers on facebook and other social media channels.  He was arrested after making several videos criticizing government officials about corruption and sharing the videos of MPs’ properties worth millions of dollars.

 

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Politics

FAMILIES OF POLITICAL PRISONERS PROTEST IN DOWNTOWN BAKU

The Azeri Times

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The families of political prisoners demonstrated in the center of Baku today and were briefly detained by the police.

Wearing t-shirts with portraits of their imprisoned family members, the demonstrators walked around the center of Baku until they were stopped by the police.

According to Zumrud Yaghmur, wife of political prisoner Fuad Gahramanli, the protestors, along with independent journalist Sevinj Vagifgizi, were detained and taken to police station #9 before being released.

15 June is a holiday in Azerbaijan. Known as the “Day of National Salvation,” it marks the return to power in 1993 of Heydar Aliyev, the former leader of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic and one-time head of the Azerbaijani KGB. After Aliyev’s death in 2003, his son Ilham Aliyev became president and remains in power today.

“If today were really a ‘day of salvation,’ our children would be free,” said Shura Amiraslanova, mother of political prisoner Giyas Ibrahimov.

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Azerbaijan

FREEDOM ABROAD, FEAR AT HOME: AZERBAIJANI HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER DETAINED FOR 30 DAYS

Arzu Qeybulla

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For Emin Aslan, going back to his native Azerbaijan after completing his studies in the US meant seeing his friends, and marrying his fiancée.

As a human rights lawyer, he worried that he might be detained once in Azerbaijan. Prior to leaving the country, he had worked with local non-government organizations and had prepared multiple complaints brought before the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Azerbaijani citizens.

But after answering a few questions from authorities, he crossed the border and passed through customs. There was less to fear. Or so he thought.

Then everything changed. For me, it began with a message on my phone’s screen: “Emin Aslan detained”. It took me a minute to process this news about my friend. I had just spoken with Emin’s fiancée two days before and we had made plans to see one another in the coming months. How could it be? The news started circulating online just a few minutes later.

View image on Twitter
For more than twelve hours, Emin Aslan’s whereabouts were unknown. Family members called one police station after another, only to be told that police did not know where Emin was being held. But as his friends and allies began to put the pieces together, the answer became clear.

Acclaimed investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who was once a client of Emin’s, wrote on Facebook:

Another human rights defender is arrested today.

Emin Aslan is a lawyer. He represented me in several Freedom of İnformation litigations and libel cases when he was one of the lawyers of Media Rights Institute. Three days ago he completed his studies in Syracuse university and came to Azerbaijan.

He is engaged and was planning to marry. Today, he was kidnapped in front of his fiancee, forced to the car and taken in unknown direction. The car, that he was forced to belongs to Mehman Teymurov – officer of Bandotdel – Anti Organized Crime Unit of Interior Ministry – the unit that is notorious for tortures.

Emin Aslan is a human rights defender and he was also mentioned in the famous NGO case which caused arrest of Intigam Aliyev, Anar Mammadli, Rasul Jafarov and myself in 2013-2014. Possible arrest was the reason why he left the country. He thought it might be safe now. No it isn’t.

Ismayilova further posted about the car that was seen taking Emin away:

The car license plate (number 90 XG 017) that reportedly took Emin Aslan belongs to Mehman Teymurov. The man by the same name worked as an employee of the Department to Combat Drugs. Later, the same name, appeared in Nardaran case as an employee of the Department for Combating Organized Crime [aka Bandotdel]. This means Emin Aslan is kept at “Bandotdel”.

The next day, on June 5, the Department for Combating Organized Crime confirmed it was holding Emin.

 

Human rights defender Anar Mammadli posted on Facebook:

The Department for Combating Organized Crime confirmed with lawyer Elchin Sadigov that Emin Aslan is being held there. However, the lawyer was not allowed to see him.

On June 5, a local court sentenced Emin to 30 days in administrative detention on charges of disobeying the police. The real reasons for his detention are still unknown, leaving his friends and family puzzled.

Although he will remain in police custody for the next 30 days, the sentence of administrative detention (in contrast to pre-trial detention) has left his family with some hope that he will be released thereafter.

Writing on her Facebook, his fiance, Nura, wrote:

Right now, Emin and I were supposed to deal with marriage/visa paperwork but instead I am preparing a bag for him to take with me to the detention center. This is shameful and disgusting. They have stolen 30 days from our lives and yet we are celebrating. What is 30 days anyway, it will pass by in an instance but this stress will always stay with me. Despite everything we are strong, there is no other way.

 

Emin is a recent graduate of Syracuse University College of Law, in the US, where he completed a LLM degree. After completing his studies, he returned back to his native Azerbaijan on May 30. Four days later, he was abducted.

Prior to leaving for his studies, Emin worked in Tbilisi, Georgia with Human Rights House Tbilisi office. On Facebook, Emin’s former colleagues expressed concern about his disappearance and alleged abduction.

Emin Aslan at his graduation from Syracuse University. Photo by Emin Aslan via Meydan TV.

Similarly, the Eastern European Center for Multiparty Democracy issued the following statement:

We have learned today that Mr. Emin Aslan, our former colleague, has been kidnapped in Baku by the unidentified individuals. We are very concerned with his fate in the face of widespread kidnappings and mistreatment of journalists, human rights activists and pro-democracy leaders in Azerbaijan.

While Emin was held incommunicado, his Facebook account — which had been deactivated for months — suddenly became active. His phone also appeared to be in use, even though since his return to Azerbaijan, Emin had not used his phone.

Emin’s arrest is one of multiple recent government attempts to persecute the remaining voices of Azerbaijan’s civil society. Scores of opposition party members have been rounded up and held on bogus charges. And while many more questions remain unanswered in Emin’s case, this illustration by exiled Azerbaijani cartoonist sums it all well.

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