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On May 6th through 8th, the trial on the case of the chairman of Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS) Anar Mammadli, EMDS executive director Bashir Suleymanli and head of a partner NGO, Elnur Mammadli continued in Baku Court on Grave Crimes.
Overall, twelve ‘victims’ testified at hearings. Neither of them had claims against the defendants, so they objected to being regarded as victims.
Vugar Suleymanov, another person considered victim by investigators, spoke differently from his initial statement. He said that in 2003 he founded an NGO for protection of students’ rights, which was later renamed to Volunteers International Cooperation Public Union. Although while being interviewed by investigators Suleymanov insisted that he had not participated in the organizations’ internal meetings, particularly in the meeting which elected Elnur Mammadov as the chairman of the NGO, in witness box he recanted this claim. However he could not answer to the judge’s question on why he gave a different statement to the investigation.
Elnur Mammadov gave the court photos which showed that Suleymanov indeed participated in the organization’s meetings.
Lawyer Alibaba Rzayev handed over a letter from the headquarters from the U.S. National Democratic Institute confirming that the grant mentioned in the criminal case had actually been awarded to the Volunteers International Cooperation PU and they did not have any claim against the accused.
The lawyer also presented notary-certified letters from seven ‘victims’ in which they did not recognize themselves as victims.
The court proceeded to questioning of witnesses. Witnesses Akif Azayev and Sadraddin Namazov stated that they rented their house to the EMDS, who always paid on time.
Witness Mammad Mammadzadeh said he organized trainings related to election and was paid accordingly by the accountant’s office.
Anar Farajli said that he was involved in the projects on civic activism. Imran Aliyev bought equipment worth 8,000 AZN for which he received money from the accounting office. They said they had not seen any violation of the law while working there.
Mubariz Diniyev, who worked as accountant for both organizations, said financial reports to tax authorities and donors had always been submitted in a timely manner.
In response to lawyers’ questions, Diniyev said that according to legislation grants are exempt from VAT.
The other witnesses also confirmed being paid agreed amounts and having no claim against defendants.
Note that the next hearing is scheduled for 10:30 am on May 12.
Anar Mammadli, head of the NGO EMDS, was detained on 16 December 2013, on charges of running business without registration, tax evasion and abuse of office by influencing election results. He was sent to pretrial detention straight away, while the two other accused, EMDS executive director Bashir Suleymanli and Volunteers International Cooperation public union director Elnur Mammadov were prohibited to leave Baku until trial. On March 19, the accused faced additional charges of service forgery and appropriation of property.
Amnesty International has recognized Mammadli as a prisoner of conscience. Numerous local and international rights groups have called for his release.