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Baku Grave Crimes Court held a hearing in the case of journalist Nijat Aliyev, editor-in-chief of azadxeber.org news portal. The presiding judge Zeynal Agayev listened to testimony from prosecution expert, Nahid Mammadov with the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations .
Nahid Mammadov, who had provided an expert opinion in the journalist’s case, testified in the proceeding. He was then questioned by the defense lawyers, who told the court that they had come to such a conclusion that the witness was not ready to give evidence, which caused a dispute between the witness and lawyer Yalchin Imanov. The judge warned the lawyer and told him that he made a decision to give a presentation for his criminal prosecution. Despite of the attorneys’ objections, the judge deemed the witness’s testimony complete, finished the hearing and scheduled the next hearing for September 12, 10:30am.
Background: Nijat Aliyev was arrested on 20 May 2012, just a few days before Eurovision Song Contest Finals, on charges of drug possession.
On 26 January 2013 Aliyev faced new charges under three Articles of the Criminal Code: 220.127.116.11 (import, sale and distribution of religious literature, religious items and other informational materials of religious nature with the aim of reproduction, sale and distribution without appropriate authorization), 281.2 (making appeals to violent capture of authority, violent deduction of authority or violent change of constitutional grounds or infringement of territorial integrity of the Azerbaijan Republic, as well as distribution of materials of such contents) and 283.2.3 (incitement of national, racial or religious hostility, humiliation of national honor, as well as discrimination of citizens based on their national, racial or religious background committed publicly or with use of mass media). His pretrial detention was extended for two months by Nasimi District Court on February 15.
Many international and local human rights groups believe that Nijat Aliyev was arrested for criticizing issues related to the Eurovision Song Contest, including the government’s high expenditures for the event and LGBT issues in connection with the contest, and questioned the need for the contest to be held in Azerbaijan.