Attesting witnesses questioned in journalist Nijat Aliyev’s case

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A court hearing was held on the case of the chief editor of news website, Nijat Aliyev in Baku Grave Crimes Court on July 11. Judge Zeynal Agayev presided over the hearing.   After the hearing, the journalist’s lawyer Abil Bayramov told the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) that two more attesting witnesses were questioned at today’s hearing.

“Attesting witness by name Latif testified that since 5 or 6pm on the day of Aliyev’s arrested he was held at the police office for 15-20 hours and required to provide an explanation at late hours. Although the witness said he was not subjected to any pressure, the bare fact of keeping him at the police office for so long is a serious violation of law. Another person, Bahruz by name, denied being an attesting witness in the process, although there are hiss signs in the relevant protocol and his explanation. He said he had forgotten the episode in which he was involved as an attesting witness and asked the court to give him some time until the next hearing in order to not remember it and also to give a new testimony. As the defense attorneys we also reminded the court of our petition for Aliyev’s forensic medical examination with the participation of his lawyers, which has already been granted. This petition has not been executed. Only once the court offered a medical exam, but Nijat Aliyev refused to undergo this checkup as it was conducted in the absence of defense lawyers. We believe the delay in conducting this medical exam serves the complete disappearance of the injury signs that so far remain” said the lawyer and added that the next hearing is scheduled for July 18, 10:30am.

Background:  Nijat Aliyev was arrested on 20 May 2012, just a few days before Eurovision Song Contest Finals, on charges of drug possession.

On 26 January 2013 Aliyev faced new charges under three Articles of the Criminal Code: (import, sale and distribution of religious literature, religious items and other informational materials of religious nature with the aim of reproduction, sale and distribution without appropriate authorization), 281.2 (making appeals to violent capture of authority, violent deduction of authority or violent change of constitutional grounds or infringement of territorial integrity of the Azerbaijan Republic, as well as distribution of materials of such contents) and 283.2.3 (incitement of national, racial or religious hostility, humiliation of national honor, as well as discrimination of citizens  based on their national, racial or religious background committed publicly or with use of mass media). His pretrial detention was extended for two months by Nasimi District Court on February 15.

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.

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