Imprisoned journalist Rauf Mirkadirov brough to court in handcuffs to testify in Yunus trial
Summary: 4th hearing (04 August)
During proceedings, Arif Yunus suffered a serious hypertensive crisis; however the hearing was continued. During the hearing, Arif Yunus had been sitting in a glass cage, holding his head between his hands.
The prosecution called its third witness, journalist Rauf Mirgadirov, who had been escorted to the court from the detention facility. A foreign correspondent for the weekly Zerkalo, Mirkadyrov was arrested on trumped-up charges of “high treason” and “spying for Armenia” after being extradited from Turkey in April 2014. Handcuffed, Mirkadirov took a stand; he said that he has nothing to do with the current criminal case. “I have no claim against Arif Yunus.,” said Mirgadirov.
The prosecution presented written testimony from Matanat Azizova, who was interrogated during the investigation but now is in exile in Prague. Azizova, who heads the Women’s Crisis Center in Baku, was questioned by prosecutors on May 2, 2014 and left Azerbaijan the next day. According to her lawyer, prosecutors put considerable pressure on Azizova during the interrogation. In the written testimony, Azizova confirmed the statement she had provided during the investigation. The defence objected to this written testimony as it “was given under pressure”. After a brief deliberation, the panel of judges stated that the testimony should be heard.
The trial on the case of human rights defender Leyla and Arif Yunus continued in the Baku Grave Crimes Court on August 4. Judge Afgan Hajiyev presided over the hearing. During proceedings, Arif Yunus suffered a serious hypertensive crisis; however the hearing was continued. During the hearing, Arif Yunus had been sitting in a glass cage, holding his head between his hands.
As previously, the hearing was partially closed. Only three embassy representatives were allowed to attend.. Leyla Yunus asked her lawyers to complain to the Judicial Legal Council in regard to the decision by the judges to continue the hearing while Arif Yunus was suffering a medical crisis.
Speeches by prosecution witnesses:
The trial continued with the testimony of the prosecution witnesses. Testifying as the first witness, Citizens’ Labor Rights Protection League chairman Sahib Mammadov said he had previously worked with Leyla Yunus on joint projects.
Another prosecution witness, journalist Akbar Hasanov was brought to the stand next. He said that he has been involved in journalism for nineteen years, in which capacity he has been acquainted with Leyla and Arif Yunus. He said that in 2006, Arif Yunus suggested that they travel to Armenia together. Hasanov said that he was interested in this visit because he was writing about the Karabakh issue, and was therefore interested in learning more about the situation in Armenia. According to him, he travelled to Armenia together with journalist Rauf Mirgadirov, psychologist Azad Isazadeh and Arif Yunus. He told the court that Arif Yunus had taken part in meetings organized by political scientist David Shahnazaryan, the former Special Envoy of the President of Armenia and the director of Solidarity research center.
In turn, Arif Yunus said that it is impossible to go to Armenia in individual capacity. He said that they visited Armenia through international organizations and they were provided with official invitations. He added that without these invitations, they would have been detained and subject to criminal investigation in Azerbaijan.
The third prosecution witness, journalist Rauf Mirgadirov, had been brought to court from the detention facility. When questioned, he said that he has nothing to do with the current criminal case. Rauf Mirgadirov said that he had known Leyla and Arif Yunus since 1990, and that during their 2006 visit to Armenia, Arif Yunus had acted as the coordinator, but he had also received direct personal invitations from the conference organizers. “I have no claim against Arif Yunus. I participated in two conferences in Armenia, and received 150 dollars for each,” said Mirgadirov.
UNIBANK Board Chairman Faig Huseynov was questioned next, as another prosecution witness. He said that Leyla Yunus held accounts at UNIBANK, and had carried out numerous cash transactions, all in accordance with the law. He said that bank representatives had been in close contact with Arif and Leyla Yunus, but that he himself did not communicate with customers directly.
Testifying next as a prosecution witness was Murvari Gahramanli, chairwoman of the Committee to Protect Oilmens’ Rights, who confirmed that she had been involved in several projects with Leyla Yunus.
Access Bank representative Anar Hasanov also was questioned as a prosecution witness. He said that Arif Yunus had an account at Access Bank, and that in April 2014, Arif Yunus had transferred the funds in his account to Leyla Yunus’ bank account in Germany, and closed his account ahead of schedule. The witness said that the sudden withdrawal of the money from his account in the bank made them suspicious. Therefore they investigated the situation. The witness explained that when customers intend to withdraw a lump sum, bank representatives meet with them several times in advance to provide suggestions. They had several meetings with Arif Yunus, but he did not accept their advice.
The court also read out the letter sent by Matanat Azizova, currently in exile in Prague, Czech Republic. Azizova stated that she was receiving medical treatment in Prague and therefore could not attend the hearing. She confirmed the statement she had provided during the investigation. Both Leyla Yunus and her lawyers objected to this written testimony. Leyla Yunus said that Matanat Azizova had given that testimony under pressure. Public prosecutor Farid Nagiyev dismissed Leyla Yunus’ allegations as “nonsense”. After a brief deliberation, the panel of judges stated that the testimony should be heard. Azizova had told investigators that she had received grants from international organizations through Leyla Yunus’ organization. She answered the questions that she had been unable to remember during the initial interrogation by investigators in her letter addressed to the prosecutor general.
Then judge then announced that the questioning of witnesses was over, and that the examination of documents would begin. Defense lawyers said they were preparing a series of in regard to case matierals, and requested additional time.
The hearing was postponed until August 5, 10.00am.
Trial delayed after sudden decline in Arif Yunus’s health
On August 3, Baku Grave Crimes Court held a hearing on the case of the human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus. The hearing was chaired by Judge Afgan Hajiyev.
Some people unknown to the general public and several pro-government journalists were placed inside the courtroom in advance, and only representatives of the US, German and EU embassies were permitted entry.
During the testimony by the prosecution witness, the head of the Citizen’s Labor Rights Protection League, Sahib Mammadov, Arif Yunus’ health suddenly deteriorated. An ambulance was called, as his blood pressure had risen to 200.
The medical staff remained inside for some time. The hearing was initially postponed until 13.00, and then rescheduled for August 4, at 10.00am.
According to lawyer Elchin Gambarov, Arif Yunus’ health is now satisfactory and his blood pressure has been reduced to 160.
Leyla Yunus’ health continues to deteriorate, says her lawyer
Lawyer Elchin Gambarov met with imprisoned human rights defender Leyla Yunus in Baku Detention Facility on July 30, and reports that Yunus’ health has worsened. Yunus, who has diabetes and hepatitis C, is suffering severe stomach pains and is unable eat due to constant vomiting.
“The lack of necessary medical care prevents proper treatment. Leyla Yunus has been prescribed medication for her liver, and she needs to eat fruit and meat dishes with these pills. But it is only possible to bring food to the detention facility once a week, which is not sufficient. Now, with her stomach contracting and in spasms, she is losing weight and vomiting constantly,” reported Gambarov.
Background: Leyla and Arif Yunus were arrested in late July and early August 2014 respectively. Leyla Yunus was charged under articles 178.3.2 (large scale fraud), 192.2.2 (illegal entrepreneurship), 213.2.2 (tax evasion), 274 (treason), 320.1 and 320.2 (falsification of documents). Arif Yunus was charged under articles 178.3.2 (large scale fraud) and 274 (treason). The prosecuting authority has now decided to investigate the treason charge in separate proceedings. Amnesty International has recognized Leyla and Arif Yunus as prisoners of conscience.