On February 28th Baku Grave Crimes Court held a hearing on the case of Khural newspaper chief editor Avaz Zeynalli. Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva presided over the hearing. Zeynalli filed a petition for re-launch of investigation into his case and for questioning of witness Gular Ahmadova at his trial.
Zeynalli claimed that former MP Gular Ahmadova (who is now in pretrial detention) had sent him a message, saying that she was willing to testify at his trial. The judge denied the journalist’s petition.
The judge announced a break in the hearing because of a conflict between Zeynalli and public prosecutor Ramazan Hadiyev. After the break the judge postponed the trial until March 7, 2pm.
Background: Avaz Zeynalli, was arrested on October 28, 2011 following a lawsuit brought by MP Gular Ahmadova on October 19, 2011. The Anti-Corruption Office launched a criminal case against Zeynalli under article 311.3.3 (taking a large bribe) and article 311.3.4 (extortion) of the Criminal Code. He was later charged under article 306 (contempt of court) and article 213.1 (tax evasion). On February 13th the public prosecutor asked for 11 years in prison for Avaz Zeynalli.
A large number of local and international human rights organizations strongly believe that the charges against Avaz Zeynalli are trumped-up and that he was arrested for his articles criticizing high-ranking state officials.
Note: Gular Ahmadova, main plaintiff in Zeynalli’s case, was sentenced to three months of pretrial detention on February 13, under articles 178.3.2 (embezzlement by abuse of trust or fraud) and 307.2 (concealment of a grave crime) of the Criminal Code. She is currently held in Baku Investigative Prison.