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On 28 April, Baku Grave Crimes Court chaired by Judge Mayil Bayramov held another hearing on the criminal case of Muslim Union Movement (MUM) chairman Taleh Bagirzade’s deputy Elchin Gasimov and MUM members Nahid Gahramanov, Aghaali Yahyayev, Seyfaddin Shirvanov, Farhad Muradov, Ramil Aliyev, Elgun Akhundov, Vusal Alishov, Isa Ibrahimov, Seymur Aslanov, Ali Shahbazov and Amirali Aliyev.
Neighbourhood inspector of the 14th police station of Sabunchu District Police Department, Police Major, aged 55-60, Yusif Gurbanov testified as a victim. “On 5 November 2015, I was on duty together with another neighbourhood inspector Emin Babayev. We were standing outside Ebulfazaga mosque when Elchin Gasimov left the mosque and came towards us uttering unpleasant phrases. We went up and tried to pacify him, but he resisted. He did not want to get into the car. We forcibly put him in the car and took to the police office,” Gurbanov said.
Gurbanov then answered the lawyers’ questions. In response to the question about which phrases Elchin Gasimov had pronounced, he said ‘I do not recall, it happened a year and a half ago’. “You seem to have learnt your testimony by heart, but cannot answer a question,” the lawyer told the victim.
While replying to the lawyers’ questions, Gurbanov said he had known Elchin Gasimov since he was a child and characterised him positively. Being asked what damage he had suffered, the victim said his cap fell to the ground when detaining Elchin Gasimov. Gurbanov said he had no complaint or claim. “Did Elchin Gasimov disobey you or resist,” lawyer Bakhtiyar Hajiyev asked. “Disobeyed,” the victim responded, although while testifying he had noted that Gasimov had resisted.
Then, defendant Elchin Gasimov began asking questions to the victim. “Are you telling the truth or do you want me to bring it out through questions? That’s not fair. The victim has given a false testimony. I was not detained by them. Sadig Heydarov and three others came and invited me to the police office. What is it that makes you tell a lie,” Gasimov asked. “I told the truth,” Gurbanov answered.
“Both neighbourhood inspectors’ statements have been written in the same form. Only the name and surname fields were left blank for them to fill out. I saw this person in the police office in the evening. Both of you came in looking scared. During our confrontation in the Main Organised Crime Department (MOCD), you said ‘It is not up to me. Otherwise, I would let you go’. Farhad Muradov was also there. They forced this person to frame me. They instructed him. Now, he cannot look me in the eye, his conscience hurts him,” Gasimov said.
He then asked Gurbanov at what hour people gathered in the mosque in the month of Muharram. The victim could not answer the question. “You are serving in an area where there is a mosque, but do not know at what hour people assemble for Muharram ceremonies? People gather in the mosque at half past eight or at nine in the evening,” Gasimov said and quoted a line in Gurbanov’s statement which read that Gasimov had made aggressive speeches in the mosque. “Have you ever once been inside the mosque,” Gasimov asked. The judge ruled out the question. The defendant objected to that and posed the same question again. The victim replied that he had been. “You have never been inside the mosque,” Gasimov said. This time, Gurbanov said he had heard it from other people that Gasimov was making aggressive speeches.
“Were you near the mosque every day during the month of Muharram,” Gasimov asked. “Not every day,” Gurbanov answered. But Gasimov referred to the victim’s statement which said he had been there every day. Gasimov further noted that although the indictment bill read that he was detained by police officers when leaving the mosque on 5 November 2015, he had not been in the mosque on that day. He accused the victim of perjury and showing his statement said, ‘You are telling a lie. Because of this statement signed by you, so many families have remained without family heads. You have to be a man and admit it. They have foisted all this on this person. Just look at a contradiction in the statement; it says that I made a noise and the people gathered there dispersed and went away, and it then says that people gathered in front of the police office for me half an hour later. What happened that they gathered in front of the police office afterwards,” Gasimov asked. “It means they like you very much,” Judge Mayil Bayramov said. “There are people who spend millions for political propaganda. But when I was detained, I only had a metro fare card in my pocket and nothing else. I would travel everywhere by metro. We have not spent a penny to win people’s love. To buy this kind of people (points to victim Gurbanov) you need money and a high position. These two are the key to this. If this person tells the truth, so many issues will be clarified,” Gasimov noted.
“They are not going to give you a colonel rank anymore, rest assured. Your statement further reads that you approached me and said I was a son of Azerbaijan, but I told you in a loud voice that you were infidels and would burn in hell and that we would no longer tolerate oppression and would crush your heads sooner or later. Did I really say these,” Gasimov asked. “Yes, you did,” Gurbanov replied. “Is it right to arrest someone for calling you, infidel,”
the defendant then asked. “You also said he would burn in hell,” Judge Mayil Bayramov intervened. This caused laughter in the courtroom.
“Please note it in the transcript that my house is at a distance of 1 km from the mosque. But the statement says that after detaining me, Emin Babayev allegedly approached my house. How come Emin Babayev walked 1 km within a short time? Does he have an unusual talent? You should have at least read your statement before coming. Why did you draw up an administrative protocol as soon as arriving in the police office and no criminal case was launched? In the police office, Azerbaijani police were poking their shoes into my mouth. They tortured and electrocuted me there till the morning. They took me up to a room in the morning and put an administrative protocol about hooliganism in front of me. I said no hooliganism had been the case. Then I was taken to court and sentenced to 30-day administrative arrest. What made you change your mind afterwards that you opened a criminal case? Did they threaten to dismiss or arrest you,” Gasimov asked. The judge answered the question instead of the victim and said it had not been like that. Elchin Gasimov objected to this. “No, huh? It was not like that, huh? What will become of these students tomorrow (points to the students sitting in the room who had come for practicum)? They are the future of Azerbaijan. You are training potential criminals here,” the defendant said. Judge Mayil Bayramov interrupted him and asked him to pose questions to the victim. “You have staged a spectacle here,” Gasimov told the judge. The judge said it was the defendant himself who staged a spectacle. The judge then asked the victim to go. Gurbanov left the courtroom. This was met with an objection from Gasimov. “Why did he go? I still had questions. The trial will not move forward unless he returns here,” the defendant contended. Judge Mayil Bayramov said the trial would go on. This led to the following dialogue between the judge and Elchin Gasimov.
Gasimov: Wait and see whether your assertion will come true or mine.
Judge: Sit down.
Gasimov: I have already told you to not give me orders. You are a judge for some people, but not for us.
Judge: Sit down.
Gasimov: Do not order me around (sits down).
Judge: You need to ask for permission before sitting, too.
Gasimov: Do not order. I do not get any permission. I do not consider you a judge.
Judge: That’s your own business.
Gasimov: Of course, that’s my own business.
Judge: You must obey the rules.
Gasimov: What rules are you talking about? You have minced all the rules.
Judge: You just received a second warning.
Gasimov: Be it the tenth.
Judge: Just you wait.
Gasimov: I do not fear you. Do not shout. Do not threaten.
Judge: Sit down.
Gasimov: Do not order.
Judge: I do not order. I demand. And, you should comply.
Gasimov: Do not get angry. You may suffer a heart attack. I pity you.
Judge: Sit down.
Gasimov: Listen, do not order me. Do not tell me to sit down.
Judge: What should I say then? Should I say go up to the sky?
At this point, defendant Nahid Gahramanov stepped in. “Dear Judge, you should be independent. Why do you get angry when the defendant asks a question, but not when the victim does not answer the questions or tells a lie,” he asked.
At that moment, victim Gurbanov returned to the courtroom.
Lawyer Fariz Namazli asked the victim the following question: “During your testimony at the trial of Muslim Union Movement Chairman Taleh Bagirzade, they advised you to read Maxim Gorky’s novel Useless Man. Did you read it?” The judge ruled out the question. “You are a lawyer and should not ask such a question. I can ask you such a question that you would get perplexed,” the judge said.
After that, victim Emin Babayev entered the courtroom, but the judge announced a 20-minute break.
Defendant Elchin Gasimov made a speech during the break. “I want to say thank you to the mothers, sisters and parents who have come here. Your relatives are behind bars, but you are patient. You are worthy of them being proud of you. We do not consider ourselves guilty at all. We have not deprived anyone of their possessions. We have not oppressed anyone. On the contrary, we have been oppressed and tortured. They have encroached on our beliefs. Our children are proud of us, but how will Yusif Gurbanov’s child be proud of him? We should not be bothered by how many years of a prison sentence the court is going to hand down for us, we should take care of our values,” Gasimov said.
Next, defendant Ramil Aliyev made a speech. “Nowhere else is there such a court where the judge undermines the defendants. At the previous hearing, the judge interrupted our speech and escaped. Look at what a state the country has fallen into. Neither the healthcare nor education sectors have a conscience. Unemployment is on a rapid rise in the country. People are suffering. While still at liberty, we were writing a lot of letters to the President, but none of them reached him. However, we directly address our words to the country’s leadership and ministers Ramil Usubov and Madat Guliyev now. We say ‘You are in the wrong. You have been deeply tainted by corruption’,” Aliyev said.
Two hours later, the judge returned to the courtroom and set the next hearing for 5 May, 2 pm.
Background: Muslim Union Movement deputy chairman Elchin Gasimov was arrested on 5 November 2015. He was initially charged under Article 310 (wilful disobedience to lawful requirements of a police officer) of the Administrative Violations Code and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. Afterwards, a criminal case was initiated against him and he was arrested. He and his co-defendants were charged with terrorism; incitement to terrorism; incitement to active disobedience to lawful demands of the representative of authority, riots and violence against citizens; illegal acquisition, transfer, selling, storage, transportation and carrying of firearms, accessories and ammunition as an organised group; violent seizure or retention of power; formation of armed groups not provided for in the legislation; making open appeals against the state; instigation of national, racial, social or religious hatred and hostility as an organised group; forgery, illegal production and selling of official documents, state awards, seals, stamps and forms, or knowing use of fake documents; hooliganism; and, resistance or use of violence against the representative of authority.
Muslim Union Movement chairman Taleh Bagirzade was arrested during an operation conducted in Nardaran on 26 November 2015. Bagirzade stood trial in Baku Grave Crimes Court along with 17 other men including APFP deputy chairman Fuad Gahramanli. On 25 January, the Court sentenced Bagirzade to 20 years, Gahramanli to 10 years, and others to between 10 and 20 years in jail.