Critical Journalist Ganimat Zahid’s Relatives Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison

June 28th, 2016

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Summary: Hearing 13

 At today’s hearing, Rovshan Zahidov’s lawyer Tahir Khanaliyev made a speech and asked for Rovshan Zahidov’s acquittal;
 Rufat Zahidov made his final speech. He said the drugs found on him and in his car did not belong to him and he had never used drugs. He requested a verdict of acquittal for himself.
 Rovshan Zahidov also made his final speech and related his arrest to Ganimat Zahidov. He pleaded not guilty and asked for his acquittal.
 According to the court’s judgment, taking into account the fact that it was Rufat Zahidov’s first offence and he had one underage child as mitigating circumstances, he was sentenced to 6 years in prison. According to the judgment, taking into account the fact that it was Rovshan Zahidov’s first offence and he was the only breadwinner of his family as mitigating circumstances, he was sentenced to 6 years in prison.

Baku Grave Crimes Court, under chairmanship of Judge Eldar Mikayilov, continued the hearing on the criminal case of Rufat and Rovshan Zahidov, who are arraigned on drug charges. Rufat and Rovshan Zahidov are relatives of Ganimat Zahid, the editor-in-chief of Azadliq newspaper and the host of the Azerbaijani Hour TV program who currently lives in exile in France. Rufat Zahidov is Ganimat Zahid’s nephew and Rovshan Zahidov is his cousin. Rufat and Rovshan Zahidov were arrested in July 2015, and are charged under Articles 234.4.1 (illegal manufacturing, processing, purchase, storage, transfer, transportation or selling of narcotics or psychotropic substances – on preliminary arrangement by a group of persons) and 234.4.3 (- in large amount) of the Criminal Code.

The Zahidov were brought to today’s hearing with their hands cuffed, and when they were put in the glass cage the handcuffs were not removed. The lawyers objected to it and said it amounted to torture. After that, the judge asked a convoy guard to remove the handcuffs from the Zahidov. The lawyer said he would make his speech after the handcuffs were removed. Only after this, the cuffs were removed and the lawyer began his speech.

Lawyer Tahir Khanaliyev’s speech:

Rovshan Zahidov’s lawyer Tahir Khanaliyev made a speech at the hearing and asked for his client’s acquittal. “During the judicial investigation, only the prosecution evidence was examined. The evidence presented by the defense was ignored. None of our motions was granted. During the judicial investigation, we reported violations of law committed during the preliminary investigation. Police officers spied on Rovshan Zahidov’s house in Shamakhi and shadowed him. They raided and searched his house only when his wife was alone, and “found” heroin. When arrested administratively, Rovshan Zahidov was held in temporary detention place and was not allowed to meet with his relatives. False evidence was collected about Rovshan. Rufat and Rovshan Zahidov were not proven guilty. Both of them have to be acquitted. Both of them have been declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Courts have several decisions regarding prisoners of conscience; for instance, in Elvin Abdullayev’s and Emin Milli’s brother-in-law’s cases, the charges were reclassified from Article 234.4.2 to Article 234.1 and they were given lighter punishments. Rufat and Rovshan Zahidov are innocent. I ask the court to hand down verdict of acquittal,” the lawyer said.

Final speeches of the accused:

Rufat Zahidov made his final speech. He said the drugs found on him and in his car did not belong to him and he had never used drugs. He requested a verdict of acquittal for himself.

Rovshan Zahidov also made his final speech and related his arrest to Ganimat Zahidov. He pleaded not guilty and asked for his acquittal. “While I was in temporary detention place, police officer Polad Garayev personally told me that my arrest was connected with Ganimat Zahidov. I am innocent. I ask for acquittal,” Rovshan Zahidov said.

After a 7-minute deliberation, the Judicial Board announced the judgment. According to the judgment, taking into account the fact that it was Rufat Zahidov’s first offence and he had one underage child as mitigating circumstances, he was sentenced to 6 years in prison. According to the court’s judgment, taking into account the fact that it was Rovshan Zahidov’s first offence and he was the only breadwinner of his family as mitigating circumstances, he was sentenced to 6 years in prison.

On a side note, the public prosecutor had requested 8.5-year jail sentences for both Rufat and Rovshan Zahidov.