On 10 January, Nasimi District Court chaired by Judge Babak Panahov held a hearing on the charges brought against the prominent blogger, human rights defender and IRFS Chairman Mehman Huseynov under Article 535.1 (disobedience to lawful requirements of the police) of the Administrative Violations Code.
Members of the public and media representatives gathered outside the court at 11.30 am to observe the hearing. However, after a one-hour wait, it was announced that the trial would start at 2.30 pm. The people who arrived to watch the hearing, including representatives of US and German embassies once again gathered in front of the court building. Although the proceedings were supposed to be open to the public, members of the public and embassy representatives were denied entry into the courtroom. The blogger’s lawyers Javad Javadov and Elchin Sadigov attended the hearing. People who came to observe the hearing had to wait outside the court.
Almost 2 hours later, blogger Mehman Huseynov showed up with his lawyers at the doorway of the court building. It was clearly visible that he could barely walk. His lawyers said he needed to see a doctor and receive treatment.
After some time, Mehman Huseynov could, albeit with difficulty, recount what had happened. “I am not broken. I told them ‘You can force me to be here, you can strip me and do whatever you want, but I won’t surrender because I am not a criminal. What I do is not illegal. I see the things that are going on in this country, and I film them and show them to the people’. Yesterday at 7.45 pm, I left with my friends and told them that I would talk to someone on the phone and be right back. I had not walked 10 metres when eight men put a bag over my head (at this point Mehman become emotionally choked up and had to pause). I could not breathe. They blindfolded me and covered my mouth. They electrocuted me. They shoved me into a car with my head down and took me somewhere. I felt blood running out of my nose. I could not breathe. I knew they were waiting for me to ask them to uncover my mouth so that I could breathe. But I did not ask them. My mouth was dried out, so I spat on my shirt and touched it to my lips to moisten them. I was kept with a bag over my head for 4 hours. There were eight people there, many of them told me ‘We apologise Mehman, sorry that we could not be like you, but we have to act like this to get the 500 AZN. They were watching the videos on my Facebook page … (at this point, bailiffs and police officers interrupted Huseynov and demanded that the journalists conduct the interview outside the court).
Mehman Huseynov was forced to leave the court property to continue speaking. “They kept my head down in an insulting way. You don’t even treat animals like that, but I endured. I couldn’t breathe, and they grabbed my arms, and I couldn’t do anything. After 3 hours, they took me to the Nasimi District Police Department. When he uncovered my eyes, I recognised him. After that, I fainted and fell. As I fell on the floor, the deputy police chief told the officers to splash my face with water.
I was sitting unconscious. I could not breathe, and my mouth had dried out. As I was losing consciousness, they dishonestly wrote my signature. When I was lying on the floor, they raised my hands and made me sign documents. I was refusing to sign before, but they took advantage of my situation and had me sign the paperwork. My lawyers can prove this. Even the judge was shocked at how different the signatures were. Had I been in a normal state, they would have done anything to me. The deputy chief said ‘Take him to the cell and call an ambulance’. The first aid personnel gave me painkillers and sleep-inducing injections. The injuries on my body are those that I sustained when I fell, and a vein has popped out in my groin. I was given an injection, and I slept.
When I woke up in the morning they told me that we were going to the court. We arrived in a Post Patrol Service car. We were in court for 4 hours. I was accompanied by 4 police officers, serjeants. I have known them for a long time, and we joked with each other. They were telling me ‘Do not film us. We are your friends’. Just imagine, I was sent a doner kebab when we were talking, and I did not eat it alone, but shared with the officers. I said ‘Let’s eat together; we have been here for 4 hours’. They ate the doner, but came and framed me in the court (at this point, Mehman was choked up and cried). I cried at the court and told the judge ‘See, what kind of a system you have created in this country’.
When the policemen saw me, they asked ‘Mehman, why are you here?’ I responded that it was for political reasons. When I wondered why they were here, they said ‘Do not be afraid. We are with you’. I shared my bread and water with them, but they told the court ‘Mehman was fighting yesterday’. One of the policemen said ‘We are forced to commit all sorts of shameful acts for 500 AZN’. If I were given 500 AZN, I would never do such shameful things. I would tear my police card and say ‘I am quitting my job like a man’. I made such a speech in court that, maybe the judge would sentence me to administrative imprisonment, but the judge has not lost his sense of humanity. He saw that it was a fake show. The judge himself was laughing. I was fined 200 AZN by the court’s decision, but I won’t pay it,” Huseynov said.
Mehman Huseynov’s lawyer Elchin Sadigov noted that he had filed a motion to hold the hearing open to the people and grant the members of the public and the representatives of the embassies and mass media access to the courtroom, but the motion was denied. “Our proposal to conduct a critical medical examination of the injuries on Mehman Huseynov’s body was rejected. So was the motion to appoint forensic handwriting analysis to determine whether the different signatures on the documents had been executed by Mehman freely or by force, taking advantage of his unconsciousness,” the lawyer said.
Sadigov said they were going to appeal the court’s decision. “Mehman Huseynov has been convicted under Article 535.1 (disobedience to legitimate demands of a police officer) of the Administrative Violations Code and has been fined 200 AZN. The court also ordered that Nasimi district prosecutor’s office conduct investigation into Mehman Huseynov’s torture reports. We do not agree with the court’s decision and will appeal it,” Sadigov noted.
After the hearing, lawyer Elchin Sadigov made the following statement for the public about today’s hearing on behalf of himself and Huseynov’s other lawyer Javad Javadov.
“Mehman Huseynov did not know the victim, Tahmazov Akram. When he entered the courtroom, he said ‘I saw someone here, who is one of the persons who attacked me on 26 December 2016’. As the said person entered in, it appeared that the ‘victim’ Tahmazov Akram was indeed the one who committed the provocation against Huseynov on 26 December 2016. Tahmazov Akram could not give a reasonable answer to the question of why he had been in that area. His account of the incident was different from how it was described in the protocol, and he even tried to accuse Mehman of hooliganism,” the lawyer said. “Witnesses Ramin Abdullayev and Rasif Mammadov stated that they had consistently attended the rallies organised by the opposition, but they were not oppositionists and only attended for the sake of watching. The witnesses said that when the police arrived they instantly picked up Mehman without saying anything. Witness Rasif Mammadov said the police were passing by that area and they stopped the cops and reported the incident. However, witness Ramin Abdullayev stated that they walked a bit before seeing the police and calling them.”
“The fact that Mehman Huseynov is in poor physical shape is undisputable. His body bears traces of injury. Khalid Kangarli, the district police officer who has drawn up the documents, also said that Mehman was sluggish and felt unwell at the time of compilation of the reports. I should be noted that Mehman Huseynov’s, ‘victim’ Akram Tahmazov’s, and witnesses Rasif Mammadov’s and Ramin Abdullayev’s identity cards were not among the administrative violation materials. Only excerpts from the Interior Ministry portal on their passport information were attached to the administrative violation case file. The said persons came to the hearing without their identity cards,” the lawyer stressed.
Background: The information about Mehman Huseynov’s disappearance since the evening of 9 January was made public by N!DA Civic Movement member Ulvi Hasanli via Facebook social network. After that, the blogger’s parents and colleagues reported the fact to law enforcement agencies.
Mehman Huseynov is the editor of the critical Facebook page Sancaq. He is famous for his videos critical of government officials. Huseynov was elected the chairman of IRFS in November 2016. The former chairman of IRFS, journalist Rasim Aliyev died in the hospital after a brutal beating in 2015.