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Summary: Hearing 1 (November 4)
At the hearing, the journalist’s lawyer Fuad Agayev filed motions to allow Rauf Mirgadirov to sit beside his lawyer, to change the detention measures, to discontinue the criminal proceedings, to remove some of the evidence from the case file, and to summon David Shahnazaryan and Laura Bagdasaryan as witnesses. However, none of the motions were granted.
The public prosecutor filed a motion to hold the trial behind closed doors, which was granted
On November 4, Baku Grave Crimes Court, chaired by the judge Alisultan Osmanov, held a preparatory hearing on the case of journalist Rauf Mirgadirov.
Representatives of the US Embassy and EU delegation, journalists affiliated with state-owned media outlets, and Mirgadirov’s relatives were allowed into the courtroom. From independent media outlets, only Azadliq newspaper was allowed in. Other journalists, chairmen of political parties and members of the public were not allowed to enter. The courtroom was filled to capacity with Penitentiary Service employees, court officers and MNS [Ministry of National Security] employees in civilian clothes.
The court hearing was attended by the public prosecutor Mubariz Miriyev, the defendant, and his lawyer Fuad Agayev. Agayev said that at this stage, his client did not have any objections to the composition of the court.
The lawyer’s motion:
The journalist’s lawyer Fuad Agayev made several motions at the hearing. In his first motion the lawyer requested that Rauf Mirgadirov be allowed to sit next to him, rather than remaining in the glass cage.
The lawyer’s second motion related to discontinuing the criminal proceedings and referring the case back to investigators. The lawyer said: “Rauf Mirgadirov was an accredited correspondent of Zerkalo newspaper in Turkey. He had even registered with the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mirgadirov’s accreditation was revoked in April of last year. According to Turkish laws, he should have received a document regarding this; however he did not. After the termination of his accreditation, he had 15 days to leave. As one of his children studied there, he was compelled to leave the country and then return. However, Turkish police stopped the bus on which he was travelling to Georgia with his family, and he was taken to the police office, where he was told that he was being deported. He requested some form of document, but officers refused. The next day he was put a plane to Baku. In Baku, he was taken away by employees of the Anti-Terrorist Center of the MNS. He was detained as a suspect under Article 274 (treason), without any clear grounds. After two days, he was arrested under the same article.”
The lawyer outlined the charges against Rauf Mirgadirov:
“According to the indictment, since February 2008 Rauf Mirgadirov has been involved in espionage in conjunction with two others, David Shahnazaryan and Laura Bagdasaryan. He is accused of cooperating with Armenian special service agencies, tasked with gathering socio-political information. On October 2, 2008, he communicated the relevant information to Armenia. Rauf Mirgadirov’s visits to Armenia were not prohibited by law. Therefore, it cannot be considered a serious offence (treason). Article 10 of the European Convention (ratified by Azerbaijan) grants the right to freedom of information, which is of paramount importance for journalists. Rauf Mirgadirov has received a number of awards and has been awarded the title of Honored Journalist. The charge against him is trumped-up.
Why has February 2008 been marked out? If they refer to Rauf Mirgadirov’s visits to Armenia, he has travelled to and from Armenia since beginning of 2000. The investigating authority needs to provide evidence – but such evidence, however, does not exist. On the same logic, Rauf Mirgadirov can also be accused of spying for Israeli and US secret agencies, because he has travelled to these countries. The only thing that distinguishes this case from the espionage charges of the 1930s is that at that time they mentioned the names of several countries, but here they’ve written only Armenia.
One of the most important political figures of Azerbaijan has stated clearly that Sarkisian’s cabinet is tracked by the special services of Azerbaijan. When a person privy to highly sensitive state secrets disclosed this information, no investigation was carried out and this an irresponsible behavior went unpunished. But Rauf Mirgadirov faces charges in the absence of any evidence. The indictment reads that Rauf Mirgadirov met with David Shahnazaryan and Laura Bagdasaryan at one of the central restaurants in Tbilisi for purposes of conspiracy. Why on earth did they meet at a central Tbilisi restaurant if it was a conspiracy meeting? What happened then that led to Rauf Mirgadirov’s arrest? As for the real reasons, after the prosecutor’s office and MNS disseminated information about Rauf Mirgadirov’s arrest, we issued a refutation and stated that Rauf Mirgadirov had written a critical article about Russia’s aggressions after Russia’s military intervention in Georgia in August 2008. Zerkalo is a widely read newspaper in the South Caucasus. In 2014, Russia intervened in Ukraine, and again Rauf Mirgadirov wrote a long critical article about Russia’s attempts to occupy Ukraine. The cause of his arrest was his accusations against Russia.”
Fuad Agayev said that neither the defendant nor his lawyers were able to read the results of the forensic examination. The lawyer said that they are legally entitled demand the change of the expert opinion or pose additional questions, but their right to do so was violated. The lawyer requested that the criminal proceedings be discontinued and the case be referred back to the prosecutor’s office.
Another motion related to Mirgadirov’s pretrial detention. The lawyer said that the pretrial detention of Rauf Mirgadirov and the extension of the detention occurred through serious legal violations. He added that detaining a person for one year and seven months without trial constitutes a serious violation of the law. Fuad Agayev also filed motions to remove the evidence obtained through inadmissible ways and law violations from the case materials and to summon David Shahnazaryan and Laura Bagdasaryan to testify as witnesses. Rauf Mirgadirov supported all defense motions, but said nothing else. The public prosecutor Mubariz Miriyev requested that the defense motions be rejected, and the court rejected the motions.
The public prosecutor filed a motion to hold the trial behind closed doors, which was granted by the court. After that, the presiding judge set the date for the next hearing: November 18, 10.30am.