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Chairman of Adalat (Justice) Party, member of Azerbaijani Parliament Ilyas Ismayilov has appealed to president Ilham Aliyev for release of journalist Avaz Zeynalli, the journalist’s wife Malahat Zeynalova reported today, April 7.
According to Zeynalova, the MP asked the president to grant a pardon to the journalist, for he has served two and a half year of his sentence.
“The charges concerning taking a large bribe or accepting a promise of bribe that Zeynalli was convicted of under the verdict are based on only few witness testimonies, audio recordings which cannot be clearly understood and mobile text messages. Such contradictory evidences, whose reliability is questionable and whose compliance with the actual facts of the case have not been approved by irrefutable evidence during the court proceedings, cannot be considered a sufficient ground to convict a citizen of a grave crime. All this calls into question Avaz Zeynalli’s guilt. Moreover the prison sentence handed down by the court is excessive and cruel. As such, when determining the sentence court failed to consider the fact that he had dependants like two underage children (11 and 13 year old daughters) and an elderly mother and other mitigating circumstances,” the MP noted in his appeal.
Background: Avaz Zeynalli was arrested on 28 October 2011 following a lawsuit brought by former MP Gular Ahmadova. The Anti-Corruption Office launched a criminal case against Zeynalli under article 311.3.3 (taking a large bribe) and article 311.3.4 (extortion) of the Criminal Code. Zeynalli was later charged under article 306 (contempt of court) and article 213.1 (tax evasion). On 13 February 2013 the public prosecutor requested 11 years imprisonment for Zeynalli. On 12 March 2013, the Baku Grave Crimes Court convicted and sentenced the journalist to 9 years in prison.
A wide range of local and international human rights organizations strongly believe that the charges against Avaz Zeynalli are trumped-up and that he was arrested for his articles criticizing high-ranking state officials.