On December 22, Shirvan Appeal Court chaired by Judge Alasgar Novruzov announced its decision on the appeal filed by satirical poet Tofig Hasanli against the 6-year jail sentence handed down to him on drug trafficking charges, poet’s lawyer Elchin Sadigov said.
According to the lawyer, during his courtroom speech he noted that the charges were spurious, the satirical poet had been arrested without any legal grounds, and many of his rights had been violated. The lawyer concluded his speech by asking for his client’s acquittal.
Next, Tofig Hasanli made his final speech and also called the charges trumped-up. “The charges brought against me are false. They are a fabrication of the police. The shop, where I worked, was searched without a search warrant and in the absence of a lawyer or the shop owner. I signed the document admitting to the charges as a result of unspeakable intimidation. The significant contradictions that arose during the investigation, the witnesses’ inconsistent testimonies, and the unprofessionalism of the police once again prove my innocence. Do not turn a blind eye to the truth. Do not hide the justice. Is it not treason that the police exposed themselves by acting unprofessionally? You did not ensure the interrogation of the employees of Main Drug Enforcement Department who illegally entered the shop. It is they who planted the drugs on me and the shop and threatened to humiliate my honour and dignity,” Hasanli said.
Turning to the judges Tofig Hasanli said: “I said it at the first hearing that a man’s conscience is measured by his fairness. I believe that you are an honest and fair judge who respects the laws. All materials attest to my innocence. I leave everyone here to their conscience, and I ask you to not leave my 84-year-old ailing mother in tears,” the poet added.
At the end of his speech, the satirical poet asked the court to acquit him or to re-classify the offence he was accused of as a less serious one so that his detention period was deducted from his prison sentence.
The judicial panel rejected the appellate complaint and upheld the 6-year prison sentence handed down by the lower court.
Background: Tofig Hasanli was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 6 years in jail by Lankaran Grave Crimes Court on 22 August 2016. He is famous for his poems critical of the authorities and officials. He made his name in 2000s when his critical poems appeared on the now-closed ANS TV’s Gulp (Cavil) TV show and in Millatin Sasi (People’s Voice) and Khural newspapers.
The satirical poet had already been convicted of drug charges in 2005 and sentenced to 3 years in prison, but was released under an amnesty law in 2007. He continued to publish his satirical works on Facebook and Youtube. He was reportedly threatened with arrest in January 2015 and was eventually detained in October of the same year.