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Summary: 6th hearing
On 10 February, Baku Grave Crimes Court chaired by Judge Mayil Bayramov held a hearing on the criminal case of Muslim Union Movement chairman Taleh Bagirzade’s deputy Elchin Gasimov and his 11 co-defendants – Nahid Gahramanov, Aghaali Yahyayev, Seyfaddin Shirvanov, Farhad Muradov, Ramil Aliyev, Elgun Akhundov, Vusal Alishov, Isa Ibrahimov, Seymur Aslanov, Ali Shahbazov and Amirali Aliyev.
During his testimony, Farhad Muradov spoke about the tortures inflicted on him. “I have been suffering from Hepatitis C disease for 8 years. On 7 December, I was resting at home after visiting a doctor and having a test. I had a lot of pain. In the afternoon, they woke me up saying someone wanted to see me. I saw that it was [the electric company employee who brought] the electricity bill, along with another person. We are three brothers and all have our homes in the same yard. They always bring separate electricity bills for each of us. My family members told me that the bill was ours as they recognised the person who brought it. But the other person forced the electric company employee to ask for me in order to [see and] know who Farhad was. When taking the bill, I noticed the other person was watching me carefully. I said the bill was ours, took it and went back to bed. Soon thereafter, 20 to 30 men broke in. They picked me up from bed. They had arrived in 4 or 5 cars. All of them, except for one, left the room. Then I saw a black bag on the wardrobe. They asked what it was. They had brought it themselves, yet asked me what that was. I told them that they had brought it themselves. They opened the bag, and we saw a weapon and Taleh Bagirzade’s appeal booklet inside it. They told me that they were mine. Could I be that dumb to put a grenade on the wardrobe knowing that someone could touch the wardrobe and it could fall on the floor and go off? There were no attesting witnesses present during the search. They came afterwards. They shoved me into a car as I was putting on my clothes, and took me to the anti-gang office (Main Organised Crime Department or MOCD). The nightmare started after that. They told me to write that I had found the weapons in a waste-yard in Nardaran and got the booklet from someone I did not know. We have grown up in mosques, not in waste-yards. I have never rummaged about in waste-yards. They have filed so many charges against me that I wouldn’t see even in my dreams. I refused to write what they said. They threatened to bring my brother there unless I did. Thus, I was forced to write like they said. There was not a lawyer. When the investigator came, I said they had forced me to write like that. The investigator a others ‘take him, so he smartens up’. I said I was not up to it. I have filed a complaint with the Prosecutor General’s Office through the Committee of the Red Cross. They came from the prosecutor’s office and I expressed my complaint again. They said ‘We know you are innocent, but what can we do? It has to be like this’. I have never had a weapon. I saw weapons when serving in the military. We have nothing to do with a crime. We love the state and abide by its laws. Up to now, I have no clue why I have been arrested. I have been a member of the Muslim Union Movement (MUM). Our organisation Given on moral values. No one can be arrested for being a member of MUM. During the investigation, the lawyer showed no concern about me. The lawyer, assigned at the state expense i.e. free of charge, said I should pay him AZN 500 if I wanted him to attend to me. Then, I requested a different lawyer, but they all said it was not up to them. I did not have a lawyer at the time of detention. They later had me write a statement at MOCD that allegedly I had given them permission for the search of my house, though they had broken in and frightened my wife and children. My kids shrank into the corner. It was a terrifying sight. My six-year-old still gets scared at the sight of a policeman, and has cried for me so much so that has developed impaired vision and wears glasses,” the defendant said.
Then, Farhad Muradov answered the public prosecutor’s and lawyers’ questions. He noted that he did not know Taleh Bagirzade personally, had just listened to his speeches, and the speeches did not contain anti-state statements. He added that he had written all his investigation statements under duress, and recanted those statements.
During the break, defendant Nahid Gahramanov made a speech. “There are three thousand inmates in Kurdakhani and all of them are political prisoners, because they are prisoners of a wrong policy. They are people, who owe money to banks, people, who have been framed with drugs and detained. None of them is a criminal. But they will become criminals after getting out of jail. All of those arrested in Azerbaijan should be named political prisoners. One of those detained could not afford to pay his electricity bills and stole AZN 16 worth of isotope so he sold it and paid the electricity bills, and was therefore arrested. He has left behind his wife and 3 children. Where is this government heading? Society is getting worse day by day. Azerbaijan has received USD 150 billion in oil revenues. Where is this money? People live in misery. Everyone owes money to the bank, has ailing kids at home, cannot earn their daily bread, and cannot pay their bills or their children’s tuition. Even the warders in Kurdakhani Detention Centre owe money to the bank. The government says ‘we have enslaved you all’. Free are those people who are thinking freely. Everyone should think well to not become a victim of this government’s wrong policy. The government wants people to be like sheep. It does not take too much to rule such people. Zhirinovsky once said ‘Heydar Aliyev is the wealthiest shepherd, because he has 9 million sheep’. They arrest those who demand their rights, and the rest do not know their rights, because they were not given the opportunity to get education. A child is regarded as workforce in the family. They send children to bring home money. And, children work as a waiter, shoe-shiner, or car-washer to bring home money. No one thinks about the child’s future. What generation will those children bring up when they grow up? This is what we have instilled, and this is the reason why we are in jail now,” Gahramanov noted.
After the break, defendant Isa Ibrahimov testified. He also recounted the tortures he had suffered at MOCD. “I was not there when the incident took place in Nardaran on 26 November 2015. I went on a pilgrimage on 19 November, and came back on 17 December. I had seen myself arrested, my trial and the judge considering our case in my dream before it happened. I was detained at Astara customs as soon as returning from pilgrimage. They took me to MOCD. They have written that allegedly I had a weapon on me, though nothing had been found on me during the inspection in the state border. I have sent 400 letters of complaint to the president of the country from Kurdakhani Detention Centre, but received no response. They said ‘letters to the president do not make it out of here’. They tore them and tossed into the waste bin. I cannot understand whether I am writing those letters to the president or to the waste bin. They took me to MOCD chief Seyfulla Azimov. They told me ‘either we pull a grenade out of your home, or you go home with us and say there was a weapon, a grenade’. They wrote that I had found the weapons in the cemetery. I used to be a sergeant. I have participated in the neutralisation of Forest Brothers Wahhabist religious group’s leader Ilgar Mollachiyev and his gang in Gusar [region]. They killed my ensign right next to me,” Ibrahimov noted.
“My mother was receiving treatment for goitre in Iran. My 5 months pregnant wife was at home. So, I was forced to write what they said so that my father did not come leaving my mother alone in Iran and that they did not enter my house where my pregnant wife was. Lankaran City Executive Power chief Taleh Garashov’s son Seymur Garashov was close friends with me. We would dine together. He used to tell me his father was pleased with me. Is that to say that the [Lankaran] executive power head was pleased with a terrorist? In the character reference about me, the [Lankaran] executive power head has written that I made speeches supportive of Taleh Bagirzade and Zulfugar Mikayilov in the mosque following their arrest. I was not even in Azerbaijan at that time. At MOCD, they took me to Karim Alimardanov’s room. He took a stick from a cupboard and told me to get down on my knees in front of him. I said I did not get down on my knees before anyone except God. They hit me in the head so much that I sustained a head fracture. I am 27 years old, but at this age I walk with the help of a walking stick. They have broken my back. If I start talking about what happened to me in MOCD at nights, you’d think I am crazy. They beat me so much that I could not get into bed and slept right on the floor on my jacket. I heard footstepschargeand at the sixteenth footstep, I knew that they were coming for me and would take and torture me again. One night, I saw His Excellency Abalfazl (Abbas ibn Ali, son of Imam Ali) in my dream, blood dripping from all over his body. I asked why he was bleeding. He said ‘it is because of the oppression committed against you’. At MOCD, they said ‘sign whatever we tell you to sign’. As I refused, they grabbed me by my arms and legs, swung me and slammed me against the window. There was one of them whom I told ‘your kid is in his death throes’. He turned pale. He took me to another room and said ‘how do you know this?’ I said I had seen this in a dream. In jail, I told my mother that she had cancer. She said ‘how do you know this? We were hiding this from you’. I said I had seen this in a dream. My mother has one year left to live. I have also seen the person, who had planted the weapon on my house, in my dream. It has been 422 days that I am in prison. I have shed tears every single of these days. I do not forgive the oppressors,” the defendant said.
Then, Ibrahimov answered the questions of the public prosecutor and the lawyers. He recanted his investigation statements. “They told me to sign the document on being provided with a lawyer. I said I had not been provided with a lawyer and refused to sign. The investigator told me ‘it is not a big deal to execute your signature. We will do that ourselves’,” the defendant said. “In 2014, my grandfather was called to Lankaran Regional Police Department. Then, they said he had jumped out of the window. At that time, more than a ten thousand people had gathered in the yard of the police department. If I had other intentions, I would have taken advantage of this and stirred commotion. I have not seen my newborn child for 6 months. All of the charges against me are trumped-up. I do not consider myself guilty of any offence. I know how long of a jail sentence will be handed down to me.”
The next hearing was set for 17 February, 2 pm.
Background: Muslim Union Movement deputy chairman Elchin Gasimov was arrested on 5 November 2015. He was initially charged under Article 310 (wilful disobedience to lawful requirements of a police officer) of the Administrative Violations Code and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. Afterwards, a criminal case was initiated against him and he was arrested. He and his co-defendants were charged with terrorism; incitement to terrorism; incitement to active disobedience to lawful demands of the representative of authority, riots and violence against citizens; illegal acquisition, transfer, selling, storage, transportation and carrying of firearms, accessories and ammunition as an organised group; violent seizure or retention of power; formation of armed groups not provided for in the legislation; making open appeals against the state; instigation of national, racial, social or religious hatred and hostility as an organised group; forgery, illegal production and selling of official documents, state awards, seals, stamps and forms, or knowing use of fake documents; hooliganism; and, resistance or use of violence against the representative of authority.
Muslim Union Movement chairman Taleh Bagirzade was arrested during an operation conducted in Nardaran on 26 November 2015. Bagirzade stood trial in Baku Grave Crimes Court along with 17 other men including APFP deputy chairman Fuad Gahramanli. On 25 January, the Court sentenced Bagirzade to 20 years, Gahramanli to 10 years, and others to between 10 and 20 years in jail.