On February 20th, 21st and 22nd the Khachmaz District Court held a hearing on the case of Khayal TV executive director Vugar Gonagov and editor Zaur Guliyev, who were arrested in connection with March 1 protests in Guba city. Presiding judge Anar Ibrahimbeyov announced that the judicial probe into the case had been completed after the witnesses testified in the trial.
As the conclusion of the examination of the video of former Guba mayor Rauf Habibov’s speech, forensic experts Altay Asadov and Latif Aliyev said that Rauf Habibov did say those words in his speech and that it was a part of the full-length video. They also added that the video was not re-edited or distorted, and no additional changes had been made to it.
In an interview with the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), the journalists’ lawyer Rashid Hajili said the expert opinion once again proves that the charges filed against the journalists are exaggerated and unfounded. “The charges filed againstjournalists and other persons, arrested in connection with March 1 protest, have not been proven. Therefore the court should give fair assessment to the proofs on the innocence of the accused persons”.
The judge heard the other witnesses and announced that the judicial investigation was over. The trial will continue on February 25, with a speech by public prosecutor.
After the online dissemination of a video in which RaufHabibov (the then chief of Guba City Executive Power) insulted Guba citizens, there was a mass riot in Guba on March 1st. The citizens set Habibov’s house on fire and there were clashes between people and the police. After the protests president Ilham Aliyev dismissed Rauf Habibov from his post. On March 13th Khayal TV correspondents Vugar Gonagov and Zaur Guliyev and up to 20 other Guba residents were arrested in connection with the protest. Vugar Gonagov and Zaur Guliyev are accused of infringement of public order (Article 233/Criminal Code) and abuse of position (Article 309/Criminal Code). The journalists and the other arrested persons are accused of editing the mayor’s speech, uploading it onto YouTube, and calling on the people to riot. Vugar Gonagov and Zaur Guliyev, who are accused of re-editing the video, reject the charges, saying that they had not re-edited the video.