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On May 16th Baku Grave Crimes Court held a hearing on the case of azadxeber.org website editor Nijat Aliyev. Judge Zeynal Agayev presided over the hearing. Although the trial was announced open to the public, the court imposed a limit to the number of people attending the trial and only a small group of media representatives were allowed to enter the courtroom.
After the proceedings, journalist’s lawyer Anar Gasimli told the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) that two more lawyers, Yalchin Imanov and Abil Bayramov, have joined the defense of the journalist, who refused to provide testimony at yesterday’s hearing.
“Today the judge heard several witnesses, mainly relatives of other detainees who were arrested together with Nijat Aliyev. Some of the witnesses gave irrelevant testimonies, while most of them refused to speak” said Gasimli, and added that the next hearing will be held on May 23, 10:30am.
Background: Nijat Aliyev was arrested on May 20, 2012 on charges of drug possession.
On January 26, 2013 Aliyev faced new charges under three Articles of the Criminal Code: 188.8.131.52 (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.