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On June 27, Baku Court of Appeal finished hearing the appeal filed by Nijat Aliyev, editor-in-chief of Azadxeber.net website, and other believers against conviction. The process was presided over by Judge Mirzali Abbasov.
The court dismissed the appeal and upheld the original decision, as the lawyer Yalchin Imanov reported.
Relatives of defendants chanted “Allahu akbar” when the verdict was read. However defendants did not react to the verdict and declined to give closing arguments.
The defense considers the court ruling unfair and intends to make a cassation appeal.
Background: Nijat Aliyev was arrested on 20 May 2012, just a few days before Eurovision Song Contest Finals, and charged with drug possession together with nine believers.
In January of this year Aliyev faced three new criminal charges: illegal distribution of religious literature; appealing for seizure of power by force; and incitement to national, racial or religious hostility and hatred, as well as discrimination against citizens.
Aliyev was sentenced to 10 years in prison on December 9, 2013. The other defendants got 3.5 to 9 year jail sentences.
Many international and local human rights groups believe that Nijat Aliyev was arrested for criticizing issues related to the Eurovision Song Contest, including the government’s high expenditures for the event and LGBT issues in connection with the contest, and questioned the need for the contest to be held in Azerbaijan.