Shirvan Appeal Court held a preliminary hearing on the appeal filed against Lankaran Grave Crimes Court’s judgment of 8 September 2016 sentencing former investigator Rufat Safarov to nine years in prison.
Rufat Safarov resigned from the Prosecutor’s Office on 20 December 2015 due to what he described as rampant lawlessness and human rights violations in the country, but he was discharged by the order of the Prosecutor General, Zakir Garalov. According to the order, Rufat Safarov has been dismissed from Prosecutor’s Office for committing acts incompatible with the position of a prosecutor or investigator at Prosecutor’s Office. Safarov was also accused of grossly violating Article 34 of the Law of Azerbaijan Republic on Prosecutor’s Office and Articles 30 and 31 of the “Code of Ethical Conduct of Employees of Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan Republic.”
Later, Rufat Safarov was charged for receiving a bribe under Article 311.3.2 of the Criminal Code. He was detained on 15 January 2016, but was later released under house arrest on 22 January. The former investigator was convicted and sentenced to nineyears in prison on 8 September 2016. Rufat Safarov is the son of former Defense Ministry spokesman and former Member of Parliament Eldar Sabiroglu.
At the hearing, lawyer Bahruz Bayramov filed a motion to replace Rufat Safarov’s pre-trial detention with another restrictive measure. The lawyer said Rufat Safarov had never evaded investigation or influenced the course of the trial despite not being in detention during nine months of examination of his case by the investigating authority and the court of first instance.
The presiding judge denied the motion.
The lawyer went on to lodge two more motions. First, he requested that Rufat Safarov be removed out of the iron cage in the courtroom and be seated next to his defence counsel. The other motion was about considering the appeal by conducting judicial investigation (examination of witnesses and of additional evidence).
“This criminal case was not investigated objectively and thoroughly by the preliminary investigation authority and Lankaran Grave Crimes Court. The persons, who have allegedly bribed Rufat Safarov, did not come forward and testify, but simply sent in letters. The head of the Culture and Tourism Office of Zardab region, who had allegedly given the largest bribe to Rufat, was not questioned during the investigation or in court. Rufat has not seen the face of this person. To shed light on this and other issues, the appeal should be considered by conducting judicial investigation,” the lawyer said.
Commenting on his lawyer’s motions, Rufat Safarov stressed that his imprisonment was politically-motivated. “While being under house arrest, I made certain statements in the media and social networks, which rubbed some people the wrong way. Last time, I called upon people on a social network to attend the National Council’s rally on 11 September, and noted that I would also participate in the rally. It was therefore that they rushingly passed the verdict against me three days before the rally and I was sent to prison,” Safarov said.
According to Safarov, the judgment against him was biased and groundless. “Lankaran Grave Crimes Court even denied me a chance to make my final speech,” said Safarov.
The court decided to consider the appeal by conducting only a partial judicial investigation. The hearing date was set for 1 December.