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Summary: 5th hearing
On 3 February, Baku Grave Crimes Court, chaired by Judge Mayil Bayramov, held a hearing on the criminal case of Muslim Union Movement deputy chairman Elchin Gasimov and his 11 co-defendants. The other defendants are Nahid Gahramanov, Aghaali Yahyayev, Seyfaddin Shirvanov, Farhad Muradov, Ramil Aliyev, Elgun Akhundov, Vusal Alishov, Isa Ibrahimov, Seymur Aslanov, Ali Shahbazov and Amirali Aliyev.
Defendant Aghaali Yahyayev’s motion from the previous hearing, which sought the return of his car seized as material evidence in the case, was considered.
Lawyer Fariz Namazli substantiated the motion by saying that Yahyayev had a newborn child suffering from a severe heart disease and the car if returned, would be sold and spent for the child’s treatment. The motion was denied. After that, Yahyayev personally asked the judge to grant the motion. But the judge said the decision had already been taken. “May God help your child, but let’s not mix things together,” the judge said.
Yahyayev said this response demonstrated the true character of the judge. The other defendants also turned to the judge asking him to grant the motion so the child’s life could be saved. “Please. A newborn child’s life is at stake. One car should not matter. Yahyayev does not have money to pay for his child’s treatment. The only thing he has is his car. Let it be sold and spent for the treatment. Consider the life of a child,” defendant Seyfaddin Shirvanov said. The judge repeated that the decision had been made and advised Yahyayev to appeal to the Ministry of Healthcare for the child’s treatment. “What appeal are you talking about? We have appealed to everyone, even the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, but they refused. Someone has enmity towards us. They are fighting with our mothers and sisters,” Yahyayev said.
After that, lawyer Fariz Namazli presented his warrant of attorney and joined the defence of defendants Aghaali Yahyayev, Vusal Alish and Ramil Aliyev.
Yahyayev continued to answer the public prosecutor’s questions. He spoke about how having heard of Elchin Gasimov’s arrest he went to Sabunchu District Police Department and was detained and tortured there. He noted that he had received blows to his eyes that blinded him, and the injuries remained. He added that the people that had gathered outside the Police Department had not resisted the police or committed violence.
After that, defendant Nahid Gahramanov testified. “At the bandits’ place (Ed. MOCD), I read my statement and told investigator Miragha Seyidov that he had not typed it correctly. The investigator said ‘we are a photocopy machine, we write what is spoken’. I said I would not sign. He said I could not refuse to sign. I do not believe in the justness of courts in Azerbaijan. I was detained during the 5 October 2012 protest in front of the Ministry of Education and was released on 30 December 2014. I got acquainted with Yahyayev at Prison #16, where I was held. MUM members used to operate alone. Yahyayev told me that Taleh Bagirzade had suggested that they establish MUM Public Union (PU). The goal and objective of the PU, as stated in its Charter, is to promote justice, to create unity between Islamic denominations, to reveal positive traits of people and hide negative ones, to instil kindness, modesty, good behaviour and morals, to help even those who are not worthy of help, to speak the truth even if it is difficult to do so, etc. I agreed to have a share in establishing such a PU. I undertook the documentation work, prepared the documents and presented them to the Ministry of Justice. There, I asked whether we could continue our activities. Authorised person Fatima Salimzade said we could engage in social activities until the receipt of a response on the documents, but then they told us that we had engaged in illegal activities. We had not carried out that large-scale activity. Today, there is Islamophobia in Azerbaijan. They prohibit hijab (headscarf worn by Muslim women) and dismantle mosques. There is the issue of hijab for which we have fought for years. They pulled down a mosque because it stood in front of the Jewish embassy building. We gathered 100,000 signatures and sent them to the president for the resolution of the hijab issue, but did not hear back. Therefore, we held a civil protest together with women. But at that protest, dishonourable people not deserving to be called police dragged those women on the ground and threw Koran, which the president places his hand on and kisses, underfoot. At the police office, they asked what had caused that aggression against the police and we said it was retaliation to the dragging of our women on the ground. We held that protest to change the attitude towards us. They treated us like ants. They were trampling on our rights. One MP even said ‘Let them go and live in Iran, open a separate school for them, so they study there’. When I was arrested, the prosecutor asked the investigator why I was arrested, and the investigator said for my views. He did not say ‘for resisting the police’. He said ‘for his views’. Just look, they punish you for your opinion in Azerbaijan.
All of our brothers here made it their duty to assist the families of arrested believers. We collected transparent boxes, and everyone put AZN 1 into them, and the raised donations were given to the relatives of those behind bars. Abbas Huseynov repeatedly went and distributed the raised money to families with charitable purposes. I was tortured so much at MOCD for taking care of such financial matters.
During Friday prayers we dissuaded people from suicide. Thousands of believers do this. Today, all of them have been labelled as terrorists and arrested. We fought perversion and drug addiction, and are therefore here. Six or seven years ago, we were called to the Ministry of National Security (MNS) and told ‘What are you doing? Two and a half kilos of heroin used to be sold in Binagadi in one month, now it has fallen to half a kilo’. To promote patriotism, we bought the disc of “Khoja” movie at ANS for AZN 200 and took it to a secondary school in Binagadi and showed it there, and we are therefore here. We are the people who promote patriotism, honour and manliness.
Karbalayi Ismayil and Mashadi Vugar, the policemen who perished during the Nardaran operation, were also believers. Vugar was invited to prayer by our theologian Haji Zulfugar Mikayilov, who is also currently behind bars. Once when we were together with Mikayilov, he told me that Vugar had called him and said ‘Haji, pray for me, so that I do not go at believers’. Zulfugar said he did not understand why Vugar was saying this. They eavesdropped on the phone conversations of them all. They killed the two religious officers because they did not agree with them. It is the reason why I called them dishonourable police. After the Nardaran incident, I went to Sardar Bunyadov’s house. His two brothers had been killed. He was going through tough times. I saw him in such a state that I was about to cry. Now, I want to cry, too. He was praying in the rain. I went up and hugged him, and gave him moral support. He looked like he had lost his mind. I took him by the hand and brought him home. Inside the house, there were bullet holes all over and a lot of broken porcelain. I spent the night there. In the morning, I saw there were policemen everywhere. No one came to Sardar’s house out of fear. The policemen attacked the house, where two people had died, as if they were attacking an Armenian home. The women and children were frightened. I told them ‘Do not be afraid, they have come after me’. The indictment bill reads that I had allegedly concealed a gun under the mattress in the bedroom of a newly-wed bride. How can you do that in Nardaran? It is impossible that you enter the room of a woman, not to mention a newlywed bride. How could I enter a bride’s room?
They detained me and took me to Sabunchu District Police Department and from there to MOCD. There, MOCD Chief Seyfulla Azimov came and said ‘Help us. Collaborate with us, so we can direct you where we want’. He threatened by saying ‘You’ll leave here dead if you refuse’. He said ‘We kill people and bury them here, and no one ever knows’. Then he left. An investigator by name Fakhri said ‘Did you understand?’ I said no. He started to strike me in the head with a baton. He stroke twice and asked the same question. I gave the same response. He said ‘Take him to the cellar’. They took me to the fifth floor. One of them told me ‘Say your last prayer’. It turns out the fifth floor was called ‘the death floor’. They beat on the soles of my feet so much that I could not walk. They tortured me for two months. They put a sack over my head and beat me. First, they said I was an Iranian agent, then an American agent. Then, they said Taleh Bagirzade was a member of the National Council and that Jamil Hasanli had mentioned Bagirzade’s name in a televised debate during the presidential elections. I said ‘Jamil Hasanli mentioned the names of all theologians, does it mean all of them are members of the National Council?’ They asked a lot of questions about the National Council. They said Ali Karimli is your man. They tortured me so much that I was afraid when I saw myself in the lift mirror at MOCD after two months. I had heard that the MOCD was called Guantanamo. Everything is the tsar’s doing. There would not have been any torture had he not pressed the button. Our national hero Mubariz Ibrahimov killed hundreds of Armenians, but the Armenians did not disrespect his body. But our compatriots drew Nazi signs on the private parts of the body of Akbar, who was killed in Nardaran, and showed his images,” Gahramanov said.
While responding to the public prosecutor’s and lawyers’ questions, Gahramanov did not confirm his investigation statement saying that he had provided it under duress and torture. He said he had not been provided with a lawyer at MOCD and his right of defence had been violated.
Next, the eldest of the defendants, Amirali Aliyev testified. “I do not understand why I have been arrested. When arresting me, they said they would release me in 3 or 4 days, but I have been here for 14 months now. I did not know any of these [defendants]. I am a farmer and have also worked as a driver, but I am not a terrorist. Just come to our house and look at my family. I asked them why they were arresting me. They said it was not up to them. Who is this can make this decision? Eleven charges have been filed against me. Am I a person who deserves eleven counts? I have written what they told me to write for fear of my children. I signed everything they told me to sign. My two sons and nephew were arrested together with me. They were detained for 2 hours. I said ‘Release them and arrest me’. I felt sorry for them because they had their whole life ahead of them. Nothing was found in our house. Our house does not even have a lock. The door is always open. I have no problems with the government. I suffer from a nerve disorder and have lived on medications in the past ten years. I am counting my days. I do not know the Muslim Union Movement at all. I don’t know Taleh Bagirzade, either. I just heard his name. I knew these brothers here, and I am proud to know them,” the defendant said.
The next hearing was set for 10 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.