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Summary: Hearing #49
On 11 January, Baku Grave Crimes Court chaired by Judge Alovsat Abbasov continued the hearing on the criminal case of Muslim Union Movement chairman Taleh Bagirzade and his co-defendants.
Taleh Bagirzade made a speech before the start of the hearing. He accused the government of incompetence and plundering the country’s wealth, blamed Ilham Aliyev and Ramiz Mehdiyev for ‘treating believers unfairly’, and said that he had an unremitting trust in the people of Azerbaijan.
Lawyer Fakhraddin Mehdiyev made a speech at the hearing and sought the acquittal of his clients Fuad Gahramanli, Ali politically motivated and Abbas Guliyev. “We believe that the charges against Fuad Gahramanli are unfounded and illegal. He also rejects the allegations and maintains that his arrest is politically motivated. He has been arrested due to his critical articles. We, therefore, filed motions to discontinue the criminal case and to change the measure of pre-trial detention, but unfortunately, could not achieve this. In particular, the presumption of innocence has been systematically violated. The charges are groundless and fictional. The defendants have been regularly subjected to torture. Abbas Guliyev even considered suicide to get relief from this torture.
The right of defence has not been ensured since the case file lacks the evidence required. All of them have been arrested in connection with freedom of expression. The requirements of the legislation and Articles 3, 5, 6, 9, 10 and 13 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms have been transgressed. A special ruling has to be issued against the police officers who have committed violence,” Mehdiyev said. “The punishment requested by the public prosecutor is cruel and merciless.
The public prosecutor sought prison sentences of 20, 21 and 15 years. Life expectancy is longer in developed countries like Germany and Japan, while in Azerbaijan it is relatively shorter. What the public prosecutor is asking for is equal to two-thirds or one-third of the average life expectancy here. The charges filed against Gahramanli stem from prejudice. His speeches do not contain anything like incitement to mass disorder, sedition, instigation of ethnic, religious or racial discrimination, pillage or violence. Gahramanli is a political opinion journalist. As a political commentator, he comments on current affairs. He is working on a book titled National Security Concept, which comes from his love of the state.”
Mehdiyev continued to speak about Nuriyev, “Ali Nuriyev is charged under 21 articles of the Criminal Code which has a total of 353 articles. One hundred of these articles are inconsequential. When you compare the 21 charges to the remaining 253 articles, you see that it makes up nearly 10 percent of the primary articles. Ali Nuriyev is married and has an underage child who depends on him. He has a neurological disorder. He has neither resisted nor killed any policeman. His has not committed any act constituting a crime, so he must be acquitted. Ali Guliyev has pled partially guilty and said that he went to Nardaran to visit his relative, perform Namaz (Muslim prayer) and attend a funeral banquet. He testified that he did not have a weapon during the incident and only threw stones. A man, who has thrown rocks, is charged with everything short of deliberate homicide. There is no evidence in this case. This was torture, and that is all there is to it,” Mehdiyev continued. “There are two documents in the indictment, an appeal attributed to Taleh Bagirzade and the charter of the Muslim Union Movement. They have already commented on the appeal that it cannot be deemed a valid document both in terms of its language and content. As for the charter, its purpose is to educate the youth, and it serves universal ideas. Please, discontinue the criminal case as my clients have not been proven guilty. You must recognise the violation of Articles 3, 5, 6, 10 and 13 of the Convention, and issue a special ruling with regard to the police violence.”
Next, lawyer Fariz Namazli made a speech. “My client Abbas Huseynov has been charged with, among other things, participation in the unrest outside Sabunchu District Police Department on 5 November 2015, but when the defendants in that case came and testified, all of them said they had not seen Abbas Huseynov there. The police officers who were claimed as victims did not even know why they were summoned here. The investigation conducted into this case has been of poor quality. Absurd evidence has been collected. The defendants assert that they have been brutally tortured, and the indictment is trumped-up. These persons have been arrested as a follow-up on the regime’s campaign of harassment and persecution. You (Judge Abbasov) were part of the panel of judges who considered Haci Mammadov’s case, and will, hopefully, preside over the case of the Main Organised Crime Department (MOCD), as well. Even if you sentence these persons to lengthy prison terms, they will not be broken, because they are under God’s protection, while the people whose protection you are under will inevitably betray you one day,” the lawyer stressed.
Then, lawyer Javad Javadov took the floor. He also asked for the acquittal of his client. “Taleh Bagirzade was jailed in 2014 and was sent to Gobustan prison. Bagirzade has always supported a healthy electoral and political system. The purpose of the Muslim Union Movement, chaired by Taleh, is to serve the laws of Azerbaijan. 26 November will forever remain as a black stain in Azerbaijan’s history. Your decision is politically-motivated, and we understand that because the trial is politically-motivated. Still, we expect your decision to be as fair as possible under the circumstances. We request you to acquit Taleh Bagirzade,” Javadov said.
Thereafter, defendant Agil Ismayilov made his final speech. “I want to say thank you to our lawyers, who defended our rights despite the MOCD’s pressure on us. The mothers sitting here have unhesitatingly sacrificed their sons for the realisation of democracy in Azerbaijan and the deliverance of Azerbaijani people. The length of the sentence handed to us is nothing. The important thing is what we are fighting for and what path we follow. Before 26 November, slander and libel against Taleh Bagirzade were widespread on TV, because Bagirzade had kissed the hand of Ayatollah Hamadani as a sign of respect. They consider this to be a betrayal. But today there are officials in Azerbaijan who bow down in front of a statue. It turns out that they are idolaters. They think it is an honour to bow down to a statue, but it is a crime to kiss the hand of a scholar. On 26 November 2015, I saw Taleh Bagirzade during the funeral repast for Imam in Nardaran. I am proud of him. Today, they talk about tolerance on television all day long, and they say ‘we are tolerant, and there is freedom of religion’. This is nothing but nonsense and lies. Today, Christians and Jews can openly celebrate their holidays and ceremonies, and state agencies give them support. Meanwhile, we organised a funeral banquet for Imam Hussein, and they not only arrested us but slanderously labelled us as terrorists.
They allege that we have committed treason. However, they themselves are the traitors. We can mention the likes of Eldar Mahmudov, Haci Mammadov and Akif Chovdarov as an example; just look, who was entrusted with the security of our country for so many years. This government revealed its despicable face that they were hiding under the guise of religion on 26 November in Nardaran. The MOCD shed not only our blood but the whole nation’s blood there. They committed that crime against the Azerbaijani people. They killed their own colleagues, who served the state, with their own bullets. Those families have fallen victim to treachery. They have been in power for 23 years. We have lived with lies and empty promises for 23 years. Today, there are so many youths in jails who have been imprisoned for drug possession, banditry and robbery. They themselves are criminals, and they knowingly make way for drug addiction. For 23 years, the people of Azerbaijan have plunged into darkness.
Today, as a people, we have no choice but unity. We have withstood the Russian Empire, Heydar Aliyev’s regime should be no bother to us. They could not eliminate the Imam Hussein School during the Soviet era. Do they think they can deter us from going to the mosque by scaring us with their batons? Are you intimidating us with prison and death? If you jail us, we will be joyous, if you kill us it will be martyrdom. I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these brothers in the struggle. I am so lucky to have found them. It is better for us to fight together than to live on the outside under Ilham Aliyev’s rule. (The judge interfered by asking the defendant to conclude his speech). Babak has said that ‘I’d rather live one day as a free man than be under the yoke for 40 years. I want to rephrase it and say that ‘I’d rather remain in prison for life than live one second “free” under the YAP’s rule,” Ismayilov noted.
Defendant Jabbar Jabbarov also made a final speech. “On 26 November, no official or minister was concerned about the killing of six Azerbaijani citizens in Nardaran. On the contrary, Ramil Usubov made a statement that the instruction was from Ilham Aliyev. His words basically meant that the injustice and bloodshed in the country occurred directly on Ilham Aliyev’s watch. He had a finger in it. If he actually gave such an instruction, I turn to him and say – Whenever you went on Azerbaijan’s TV channels and stated that Azerbaijan has got a strong army, we did not know that this army was against us. (The judge interrupted him by telling him to address the court, not the president). I am directing my words where the slanders and false accusations against us came from. We thought that this army was against Armenians. However, this army occupied Nardaran village and jailed people.
They put an end to several people’s lives, and took us hostage, whereas the real criminals are on the right and left-hand side of Ilham Aliyev. If you, Ilham Aliyev, were unaware of this incident, I tell you from here that we did not intend to overthrow your government. We were and are protesting against tyranny and violation of human rights. We will not deviate from our protest. We had no intention to take up arms and seize your power. You can rest assured about that. We did not have such an intention but may have from now on, because you have aroused hatred in us. Nardaran is not an Armenian village. It is an Azerbaijani village. Our own army kept the community under subjugation for months. Ramil Usubov has been in office since your father’s time. Despite all his negative traits, one good thing about Heydar Aliyev was the fact that he ruled the country himself. Today, each minister rules Azerbaijan as he pleases. Back then, they did not have such a power. You construct new enterprises in Azerbaijan and openings, but the people do not need this. You need to make the opening of justice in Azerbaijan, but this is yet to happen. People’s rights are violated. In the end, I want to tell the court that I do not want your 19-year prison sentence as requested. Give me a sentence befitting your name. I want a life sentence. I’d sit my entire life and wait for the criminals to be arrested and prosecuted,” the defendant said.
Next, defendant Ibrahim Khudaverdiyev made a brief final speech. “I am 57, and they have subjected me to such torture that I had to perform Namaz seated. I cannot perform Namaz standing on my feet, because when I bend, I feel dizzy. Sentencing an innocent person to 15 years is equal to a life sentence. As for the Nardaran calamity, we did not have weapons. Do you really think that we are terrorists? Allegedly, those of us here had pistols and grenades, but all surrendered without firing at the policemen?”
Finally, defendant Abbas Huseynov made his final speech. “The actual reason behind our arrest is our protection of justice and protest against despotism. They themselves killed the policemen who died during the Nardaran operation. It is the Minister of Internal Affairs Ramil Usubov and President Ilham Aliyev who are responsible for the Nardaran events. We have been arrested because the YAP government is intolerant of Taleh Bagirzade’s criticism. At the MOCD, they said Taleh Bagirzade and Abbas Huseynov would not survive the prison, anyway. The day I was brought to Kurdakhani detention centre after being tortured at the MOCD, 20 people beat me up with boots. Their anger did not cool down with that. They chained my arms to a bed in solitary confinement and beat me once again. In a cold winter month, I was shivering cold as they took me to the walking room at 4 o’clock at night and beat me once more. Abbas Guliyev said he saw them sit on the chest of Abulfaz Bunyatov at the MOCD and pour vodka into his mouth, but he threw it all up sip by sip. Today, I am proud to fight for freedom. I am ready for a life sentence in this struggle,” Huseynov noted.
The next hearing was set for 16 January, 10.30 am.
Background: On 26 November 2015, an armed incident occurred between a group of believers and policemen 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.
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 (calling for active insubordination to laws 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.