INSTITUTE FOR REPORTERS` FREEDOM AND SAFETY STATEMENT

March 10th, 2010
The Institute for Reporters` Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the failure of the Appellate Court to fulfill the appeal against the decision of the Sabail District Court adopted on 11 November 2009 against youth bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade.

IRFS recalls that although the youth bloggers were convicted of hooliganism, in fact they were arrested for placing material online criticizing the government. Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade were subject to provocation on 8 July and were beaten. Although they appealed to police as victims, police detained Adnan and Emin as suspected persons, and freed the attackers. Then a decision was adopted to sentence them to pre-trial detention. The youth bloggers were ignored necessary medical treatment while they were held in the police department and they were prevented from seeing their lawyers. A criminal case was opened under article 221 (hooliganism) against the bloggers followed by serious law violations. During the investigation into the case, a new charge was brought against them under article 127 (inflicting intentional minor bodily harm) of the Criminal Code. On 11 November 2009 the Sabail District Court adopted a verdict to sentence Emin Milli to 2,5 years imprisonment and Adnan Hajizade to 2 years imprisonment. Today, 10 March, the Baku Appellate Court adopted a decision to uphold the verdict of the Sabail District Court.
Local and international human rights organizations recognized Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade as prisoners of conscience and called on Azerbaijani government to free them; however, the sentence against them was never changed.
IRFS calls on Azerbaijani government to annul verdicts issued against Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, and against the other two journalists – the Editor-in-chief of Gundalik Azerbaijan and Realniy Azerbaijan Newspapers and Azadlig Newspaper Editor-in-chief Ganimat Zahid and to release them immediately.
IRFS urges Azerbaijani government to secure freedom of speech in Azerbaijan and to create better conditions for independent media.