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The first day of the long-awaited trial against Nijat Aliyev, who has spent more than 10 months in the pre-trial detention, saw the journalist face the a series of claims that he was guilty of “humiliation of national honor” , “drug trafficking” and “distribution of religious literature”.
On April 1 the Baku Grave Crimes Court kicked off the trial, with Nijat Aliyev and his lawyer Anar Gasimli attended the hearing. The judicial consideration of the journalist’s case was scheduled for April 12, 10:30am.
Despite hopes that the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku (May 2012) would improve conditions for the independent press, the political climate in Azerbaijan is increasingly hostile to the activity of mass media outlets and citizen journalists. Many international and local human rights groups believe that Nijat Aliyev was arrested for criticizing issues related to the Eurovision Song Contest, including the government’s high expenditures for the event and LGBT issues in connection with the contest, and questioned the need for the contest to be held in Azerbaijan.
Background: Following his arrest on May 20, 2012 Nijat Aliyev was charged under Article 234.1 of the Criminal Code (illegal manufacturing, purchase, storage, transportation, transfer or selling of narcotics/psychotropic substances).
On January 26, 2013 Aliyev faced new charges under three Articles of the Criminal Code: 188.8.131.52 (import, sale and distribution of religious literature, religious items and other informational materials of religious nature with the aim of reproduction, sale and distribution without appropriate authorization), 281.2 (making appeals to violent capture of authority, violent deduction of authority or violent change of constitutional grounds or infringement of territorial integrity of the Azerbaijan Republic, as well as distribution of materials of such contents) and 283.2.3 (incitement of national, racial or religious hostility, humiliation of national honor, as well as discrimination of citizens based on their national, racial or religious background committed publicly or with use of mass media). His pretrial detention was extended for two months by Nasimi District Court on February 15.