Jailed journalist takes the National Press Council to court

August 13th, 2013

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On August 13th the Narimanov District Court heard Khural newspaper editor Avaz Zeynalli’s lawsuit against the National Press Council. Judge Mazahir Sadigov presided over the hearing. The plaintiff, Avaz Zeynalli, his attorney Elchin Sadigov, and the defendant’s representative, Deputy Chairman of the National Press Council, Mushfiq Alasgarli attended the hearing.

The hearing started with the objections by Avaz Zeynalli, his relatives and media representatives that the courtroom was too small. As a result the judge announced a break in the process.

When the hearing was resumed, Zeynalli filed a petition requesting the court to allow him to familiarize himself with the materials of the case.

In turn, the defendant’s representative, who said he is not a lawyer, asked the court to give them time saying the lawyer of the Press Council would participate at the next hearing.

The judge granted the petitions of both sides and adjourned the case until August 29, 12:00 pm.

Background: In 2011 the Press Council issued a decision to include the Khural newspaper in the “blacklist”. Coming one month before the editor’s arrest, the decision was deemed politically motivated and Zeynalli filed a lawsuit with the court against the Press Council, requesting revocation of the PC decision and compensation for the damage caused to his business reputation. The lawsuit was left unconsidered by the decision of Judge Mezahir Sadiqov of the Narimanov District Court. The decision was upheld by the court of appeal. The case was then sent back for reconsideration by the Supreme Court.

Note that Avaz Zeynalli was arrested in October of 2011 following a complaint brought by former MP Guler Ahmadova, and sentenced to nine years in March of 2013.

Avaz Zeynalli was arrested on October 28, 2011 following a lawsuit brought by former MP Gular Ahmadova. 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. Zeynalli was later charged under article 306 (contempt of court) and article 213.1 (tax evasion). On 13 February 2013 the public prosecutor requested 11 years imprisonment for Zeynalli. On 12 March 2013 the Baku Grave Crimes Court convicted and sentenced the journalist to nine years in prison. The decision was upheld by Baku Appeals Court on May 13.

A wide range 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.