On September 26th Baku Grave Crimes Court under the chairmanship of judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva held a hearing on the case of Khural newspaper chief editor Avaz Zeynalli. The last witness from the Narimanov Department for the Execution of Judgments, Fuad Nabiyev, testified in the trial. Nabiyev said he is not supervising the execution of judgments relating to Avaz Zeynalli, but added that he got familiar with Zeynalli’s case while he was the acting Department Chief in December 2010 (for 12 days). “I do not remember” was the witness’s only answer to all the questions.
As other witnesses were absent from the trial, the judge ruled for ensuring the mandatory presence of the witnesses, except for MP Gular Ahmedova.
Then judge Allahverdiyeva held panel deliberations on the petitions filed in the previous hearing by the defendant requesting to replace his sentence with house arrest or bail. Both of the motions were rejected and the next hearing was scheduled for September 27, 2:00pm.
The Khural newspaper was published weekly from September 2002 until September 20, 2011 at which point it started to be published daily.
The property of the Khural newspaper was confiscated by the October 19 decision of the Narimanov District Court, as the Khural failed to pay total of 19,000AZN in compensation to Presidential Administration head Ramiz Mirzeyev, head of the State Support Fund for Mass Media Vugar Seferli, “Azerbaijan” publishing company director Agabey Asgerov and singer Nushabe Alesgerli.
Avaz Zeynalli, the editor-in-chief of Khural, was arrested following a lawsuit brought by MP Gular Ahmadova on October28th, 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). Later he was charged under article 306 (contempt of court) and article 213.1 (tax evasion).
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.