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Summary: Hearing #48
On 9 January, Baku Grave Crimes Court chaired by Judge Alovsat Abbasov held another hearing on the criminal case of the Muslim Union Movement chairman Taleh Bagirzade and others.
Lawyer Yalchin Imanov petitioned the court to renew the judicial investigation, justifying it by the fact that the public prosecutor based his speech on evidence that was not examined in court and the documents in the case file, had been examined without the defendants present.
Defendant Abbas Huseynov supported the motion and noted that they considered the judicial investigation unlawful.
Taleh Bagirzade also defended the motion and said he would like to make some additional comments in that regard. “Last time, the prosecutor sought a life sentence for me. Allegedly, the booklet containing offensive remarks about Ilham Aliyev belongs to me. Since the start of the proceedings, I repeatedly stressed that this booklet needs to be investigated, but the court declined to do so. Every person in their right mind will see, by just reading the first two pages of this booklet, that it does not belong to me. It speaks about the Nardaran events. If it speaks about the incident, then it means that it has been written after I was arrested. They try to substantiate their coup attempt allegation based on this booklet. The prosecutor said they had allegedly found something against the state in my speeches on Youtube. My speeches on Youtube are in plain sight. None of my statements to date contain appeals against the government. They cannot find anything in them that constitutes a crime. I will say it again, that the Minister of Internal Affairs Ramil Usubov has interfered with these proceedings. As Ilham Aliyev is directly in control of the trial and is the one who makes the final decision, today my appeal to Ilham Aliyev will come out,” Bagirzade said. “Last time, the prosecutor alleged that the Muslim Union Movement wanted to carry out a violent change of power. The high-ranking generals of the Ministry of National Security, who were arrested one month before us, have engaged in a racket for 11 years. They have plundered this state and the people for 11 years. These people, who have embezzled and looted the state property and committed treachery against the state for years, do not face these charges, but they accuse us of attempting a coup. The one who is committing a coup is Ilham Aliyev himself. This state will be overthrown.”
APFP Deputy Chairman Fuad Gahramanli took the floor next. “This trial has already gone out of the legal dimension, and become a political proceeding. During the witness examination phase, the authorities were exposed to such an extent that, they lost their temper and ordered that the proceedings be completed hastily, without properly examining the evidence. As a pretext, they excluded us from the proceedings so that we could not express our opinions here, and the evidence was virtually not examined. The prosecutor recommended an 11-year sentence for me. It makes no difference for me whether it is one month, 11 years or 20 years. We are ready for anything, for the sake of our beliefs. The charges brought against me have been clearly fabricated. The bill of indictment contains a phrase which does not exist in my writings. This goes to show that the prosecution has been prejudiced since the beginning and is not interested in evidence,” Gahramanli said.
After that, Abbas Huseynov made a speech. “The indictment refers to my telephone conversations, but what was written there has nothing to do with me. The only sentence that I actually said is that when Taleh Bagirzade was in Gobustan prison, I stated that Taleh Bagirzade would get out of jail and we will meet him. I did not say the rest of the statements. I am facing 22 charges at the age of 28. I do not fear any of these 22 counts. I am concerned not for us, but for you (addressing the judge and the prosecutor). Ilham Aliyev, who has had Ziya Bunyadov and Rafig Tagi murdered, will also get you killed and blame it on us. Ilham Aliyev will make you suffer,” the defendant noted.
The judge denied the petition.
After that, lawyer Abil Bayramov addressed the court and asked for defendant Zakir Mustafayev’s acquittal. “I am sure of Zakir Mustafayev’s innocence. The investigation has been conducted in violation of the law. Zakir Mustafayev was detained on 25 December 2015, but the indictment states that he was detained on 26 December. Mustafayev has renounced his investigation statements because they had been extracted under duress. Mustafayev’s involvement in the crime of deliberate homicide, which they accuse him of, has not been proven. The authorities mention him as a member of an organised group, but there is no single fact to substantiate this. Mustafayev has been charged based on the false statements of police officers, and this is absurd. I ask the court to make a just decision,” the lawyer said.
Gulshan Salmanov, the lawyer of Ramin Yariyev who was still a minor at the time of the Nardaran incident, asked for the acquittal of her client. “Yariyev’s case should be reviewed separately because he was underage when arrested. When I met with him, I knew that he was not guilty. A kid will sign anything when you torment him. Yariyev had no connection to those killed. He was charged under almost all articles of the Criminal Code. Yariyev is an only child and has diplomas in the field of sports. He has represented Azerbaijan in various competitions and exalted his country’s name. Sentencing him to 10 years would mean tarnishing his entire life. These persons are sitting here because of the poor management of the Main Organised Crime Department (MOCD). Therefore, I request the acquittal of Ramin Yariyev,” the lawyer noted.
Next, lawyer Elchin Sadigov made a speech. He also requested acquittal of his clients.
“Nothing happened in Nardaran until the police attacked. The police are responsible for everything. If those in Nardaran were dangerous, the police could have raided them when they were sleeping. The reason they attacked in the afternoon was for a show. The police themselves are to blame for the death of their two colleagues. According to the expert report, the two officers had sustained injuries 7-8 hours earlier, which coincides with 2-3 pm. This timeline means that they remained there wounded for at least 3 hours and no one helped them. The jaws of the two deceased officers were closed, unlike the Nardaran residents who died. This is again discrimination.
When the officers came and testified, all of them said they had used a sports move to pin the defendants to the ground. You can use a sports move at best to push someone to the ground. But they sustained a lot of injuries, which is proof that the police obviously used excessive force. It is an undeniable fact that they were tortured.
There were attesting witnesses present during the inspection, but the court refused to call those witnesses, thus trying to prevent the charges from being exposed as false. The defendants were not proven guilty. Therefore, all of them should be acquitted, and a special ruling should be issued regarding the persons who tortured them and the police officers who interfered with the course of the trial. The verdict of not-guilty should acknowledge the violation of the defendants’ rights guaranteed in Articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 9 and 18 of the Convention,” the lawyer underlined.
Following the break, lawyer Nemat Karimli made a speech and asked for an acquittal. “During his speech, the prosecutor said the defendants’ guilt was sufficiently proven, when in fact, nothing was proven. It remains unclear to me personally who killed the six people. In its statement, the Ministry of Internal Affairs wrote that ‘four people were eliminated, while two police officers heroically died’. This already attests to the prejudice of the prosecution. In his report on Fuad Gahramanli, the expert has stated that Gahramanli’s writings were of speculative nature. You cannot charge a person based on a speculation. Gahramanli is behind bars for exercising his freedom of expression. I request the acquittal of my clients Ali Nuriyev, Abbas Guliyev, and Fuad Gahramanli,” the lawyer said in conclusion.
After that, lawyer Zibeyda Sadigova took the floor. “My client Taleh Bagirzade is 32 years old, he has three minor dependents, and he is a religious person. He has been arrested for his speeches critical of the Azerbaijani authorities and his calls to fight for human rights. His right to freedom of expression has been violated. Despite our persistent motions, the relatives of the victims were not called to court. Even the families of the two deceased officers did not come. More than 40 of our motions were rejected. All of the MOCD employees provided conflicting and inconsistent answers to the questions. The witnesses were subjected to pressure. Criminal cases were launched against people unrelated to the proceedings who just came to watch the hearings. The defendants were forced to sign the statements under duress. Those documents cannot be regarded as evidence. For these reasons, I ask the court to acquit my clients, render a special ruling against the persons who have inflicted the torture, and remove the documents obtained with the participation of attesting witnesses from the list of evidence,” the lawyer noted.
The speech was followed by a break.
After the break, lawyer Yalchin Imanov made a statement. “The Nardaran trial is the biggest case of the past decade in Azerbaijani legal history. This trial was marked by a number of grave violations of the law and remarkable facts. One of the most noteworthy things is the management of the police operation. This decision, adopted by the head of the operation Karim Alimardanov, reads that information was received regarding Taleh Bagirzade’s and his gang’s involvement in criminal activity.
We could not figure out when that information was received and whether it was registered or not. The court denied our many motions. It seems the witnesses were divided into four groups of two – consisting of Rovshan Mammadov and Adil Guliyev, Intigam Karimov and Chingiz Hasanov, Asif Aliyev and Elnur Ahmadov, and Dashgin Ginjaliyev and Huseynaga Mammadov – and participated in a total of 24 inspections (21 instances of medical examination of persons and autopsy of corpses, inspection of 2 rooms and 1 garage).
The MOCD operatives, who testified in court, mentioned different and contradictory lengths of time regarding how long the search of the apartment lasted. Some said it lasted 30 minutes, others said 15 minutes, and some even said 2 hours. Furthermore, each of the operatives stated that they used their “Zafar” brand service weapons, opened fire, and some shot six bullets, some 8, some 15-16 and some more than that. In such a case, the parts of the MOCD operatives’ testimonies concerning their use of weapons are totally contradictory,” the lawyer remarked.
Then, the lawyer drew the court’s attention to the inconsistencies between the indictment and the facts. He shed light on issues related to the MOCD, First Aid Station, Clinical Hospital, the booklet allegedly from Taleh Bagirzade, and Fuad Gahramanli’s Facebook posts.
“According to the protocol, police officers Vugar Nasibov and Ismayil Tagiyev died of the injuries they sustained. However, the autopsy reports on both officers (report on Vugar Nasibov between 9 pm and 11 pm, and report on Ismayil Tagiyev between 7 pm and 9 pm) show that the first officer died 5-7 hours and the second officer 4-6 hours before the autopsy. This means that the officers died after the protocol had been drawn up. This being the case, the fact that their deaths are mentioned in the protocol raises a question,” the lawyer noted. “During the period of judicial investigation, defendants Taleh Bagirov and Abbas Huseynov were put in solitary confinement on three occasions and each time for five days. During the legal investigation, the expert certificate and expert reports, which form the basis of the charges brought against Fuad Gahramanli, were not examined. The prosecution sees Gahramanli’s Facebook posts as the proof of his ‘criminal intention’ shared with the others. However, Gahramanli merely expressed his opinion on the processes and did not commit any of the actions that constitute a crime. His action does not constitute two of the four elements of a crime referred to in the Criminal Code, i.e. objective and subjective aspects of crime. In such a case, his thoughts cannot constitute a crime.”
“Therefore, based on what I mentioned before, I request that
1. My clients Taleh Bagirov, Agil Ismayilov, Ibrahim Khudaverdiyev, Bahruz Askarov, and Zakir Mustafayev be acquitted in accordance with Article 42.1.2 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Azerbaijan Republic for lack of criminal content in their acts, and Fuad Gahramanli in accordance with Article 42.1.1 of the Criminal Procedure Code for absence of a criminal act;
2. The criminal proceedings be continued in order to identify and prosecute the persons who have killed Vugar Nasibov, Ismayil Tagiyev, Sarvan Safarov, Akbar Babayev, Rafayil Bunyatov, and Farayil Bunyatov;
3. A special decision be issued in respect of MOCD officers Karim Alimardanov, Shahlar Jafarov, Islam Agabayov and Ibrahim Kazimov for the infliction of torture on the accused;
4. A special decision be issued in respect of MOCD division chief Karim Alimardanov and operative Islam Agabayov, Sabunchu District Police Department chief Eldar Ilyasov and deputy chief Shaig Aliyev, and chief of Sabunchu District Police Department’s 42nd police station Tarkhan Ahmadov for subjecting pressuring witnesses;
5. The fact that Taleh Bagirov, Agil Ismayilov, Bahruz Askarov, Ibrahim Khudaverdiyev and Zakir Mustafayev were held in the cellar both at the time of detention and while being held by MOCD, and all of the defendants including Fuad Gahramanli were held in the basement of Baku Grave Crimes Court on the trial dates between 14-23 December 2016 be recognised as a violation of their right to not be tortured, which is guaranteed by Article 3 of ECHR,” the lawyer noted.
The next hearing was set for 11 January, 10.30 am.
Background: On 26 November 2015, an armed incident occurred between a group of believers and police officers in Nardaran settlement of Baku, during an operation conducted by the police. According to official reports, the shootout resulted in the death of six, including two police officers. Taleh Bagirzade, the leader of the Muslim Union Movement, and several believers were detained as part of the operation. A criminal case has been launched in relation to the incident by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Azerbaijan Republic.
APFP Deputy Chairman Fuad Gahramanli, who was not present during the incident, was arrested on 8 December 2015. His lawyer Yalchin Imanov said that Fuad Gahramanli was arrested due to his Facebook posts and his case was merged with the criminal case of the people arrested over the Nardaran incidents.
Fuad Gahramanli, who is not a member of the Movement but yet accused of promoting their cause, is charged under Articles 220.2 (making calls for active insubordination to lawful requirements of representatives of authority and for mass disorder, as well as violence against citizens), 281.2 (public appeals directed against the state, committed repeatedly or by a group of people) and 283.2.1 (instigation of national, racial, social or religious hatred and hostility, by using or threatening to use violence) of the Criminal Code.