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Summary: Hearing 34
On 11 November 2016 Baku Grave Crimes Court chaired by Judge Alovsat Abbasov continued the hearing on the criminal case of Muslim Union Movement’s Chairman Taleh Bagirzade and other members of the Muslim Union Movement, charged under 21 articles of the Criminal Code including homicide, terrorism and incitement.
The APFP Deputy Chairman 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 disorders, 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 respectively.
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 of Azerbaijan Republic.
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.
At the hearing, defendant Abbas Huseynov filed a motion to take special measures in respect of MOCD officers Karim Alimardanov, Islam Agabayov, Shahlar Jafarov, Ibrahim Kazimov and others, who had tortured the witnesses in the case.
“Karim Alimardanov, Islam Agabayov, Shahlar Jafarov, Ibrahim Kazimov and other individuals who we do not know succeeded in forcing people to admit to fabricated charges by committing the above-mentioned illegal steps and managed to cover up their dirty deeds and tortures by putting pressure on people. After the slanderous and false accusations were revealed in court, the MOCD employees influenced the police departments of Yasamal and Sabunchu districts, and took the relatives and family members of the defendants and of those defending their rights as hostages and threatened them to silence the defendants. It has also been revealed that employees of Sabunchu DPD sat in the courtroom in order to manipulate the witnesses testifying in court. Witnesses, who came to testify in court, were taken away in a bus and some of them were given electric shock while others were threatened. At the hearing held on 7 November, witness Motabar Babayev said he had been subjected to pressure by Karim Alimardanov and Islam Agabayov. Those two forced the witness to give a testimony consistent with the false charges, and threatened to frame and arrest his father unless he agreed. I demand the court to take action against those people,” Abbas Huseynov said.
The defendants backed the motion.
Lawyer Zibeyda Sadigova reiterated her motion from the previous hearing that after the hearing witnesses were taken by the police and were forced to confirm with their signatures that there had not been any torture. “You sent a letter to Baku City Prosecutor’s Office. But, you should’ve sent it to the Prosecutor General’s Office so that those operatives be summoned and interrogated. Who knows maybe their acts really constitute a crime. The court should appeal to the Prosecutor General’s Office to launch an investigation about those persons,” the lawyer said.
The presiding judge called the motion an absurdity and did not grant it.
Defendant, Chairman of Muslim Union Movement Taleh Bagirzade filed a motion regarding additional witnesses. “The prosecution has some witnesses whose testimonies have nothing to do with us; for example, those mentioning football. But, there are statements of almost 25 witnesses whose names have not been included in the list. Their testimonies are significant. Those statements look like they were written under duress and torture. The 25 men are held in Kurdakhani Detention Centre. Let them come and testify. Those persons’ statements have been devised and exaggerated by the prosecution to increase the charges. You should grant the motion if you are interested in objective investigation of the case,” Bagirzade added.
Lawyer Yalchin Imanov also lodged a motion about additional witnesses. “The bottom line of Taleh Bagirzade’s and my motion is that the 25 men arrested in Lankaran, Ganja and other regions, including Abulfaz Bunyatov, should be summoned and examined. They are Board members of Muslim Union Movement. Preliminary investigation against them is underway. Those people have given a statement against Taleh Bagirzade, but I am sure that those statements were given under duress and torture. Why have their statements been left out, but the statements of professional footballers, who participated in a football competition, have been included as evidence? This proves that those statements were extracted through torture, and the facts will be confirmed when those persons come and testify here. I believe that they should be summoned for testimony in court. Furthermore, there are eight attesting witnesses, who, according to the record of search operation and seizure of material evidence, have signed this record. But, interestingly, those attesting witnesses’ statements have not been presented to the court as evidence, either. It is a very interesting issue. They should also be invited and questioned,” the lawyer stressed.
Next, lawyer Abel Bayramov filed a motion. “The Prosecutor General’s Office has taken a statement from several people in connection with the investigation of torture inflicted on defendant Zakir Mustafayev. One of the people questioned in this connection is Sadig Heydarov, the deputy chief of the 14th police station of Sabunchu DPD. Heydarov confirmed that he had appealed to Sabunchu DPD on 25 December 2015 to locate Zakir Mustafayev’s car, but denied Mustafayev’s that Mustafayev was detained at the police station. However, there is an irrefutable proof in the case file on Zakir Mustafayev’s detention in the police station from 25 December to 26 December. I request that Sadig Heydarov’s statement be included in the case file,” the lawyer noted.
After that, lawyer Yalchin Imanov filed another motion. “According to the criminal case, booklets containing an address by Taleh Bagirzade have been found on the defendants and in Abulfaz Bunyatov’s house. However, the case materials consisting of 22 volumes do not include the booklet containing an address by Taleh Bagirzade. It appears from the decision on the assessment of the evidence that those booklets are kept at the Main Organised Crime Department as material evidence. It is unclear to me why even a single copy of this booklet has not been included in the case file. Based on this booklet, charges have been brought against my client Taleh Bagirzade, Bahruz Asgarov, Agil Ismayilov,Ibrahim Khudaverdiyev and others. Nahid Mammadov, an expert from the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations, has issued an opinion that the book contains appeals directed against the government, aimed at changing the state’s constitutional structure and provoking ethnic, racial, and religious enmity. We want to bring counter-evidence against the evidence presented by the prosecution. I want to get familiarised with that booklet. There is not a single copy in the case file. I am asking that the Department be requested to include a copy of this booklet in the case file. Let it be given to us, so we can prepare our arguments. Otherwise, we are under the risk of being at disadvantage against the prosecution,” Imanov noted.
Thereafter, lawyer Nemat Karimli lodged a motion. “The joint statement of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the incident that occurred on 26 November 2015 reads that ‘four members of the criminal gang set up by Taleh Bagirzade were annihilated and several others were wounded whereas police officers died heroically while performing their duties’. First of all, the prosecutor’s office calling those people criminals violates their presumption of innocence. No one can be considered a criminal without a court verdict. But less than an hour after the incident, it reads a ‘criminal gang’. It also says ‘annihilated’, which in Azerbaijani language means ‘to obliterate, to destroy, and to extinguish’ and is usually used against the enemy with a sense of revenge and hatred. According to the legislation, no one can be favoured over others due to their race, religion or other background, and discrimination is prohibited. To name one side a ‘criminal gang’ and to say that the other side, i.e. the policemen, ‘died heroically’ is discrimination. This statement reveals that the investigating authority has an unambiguously biased attitude towards these persons, and already the bias has been reflected in the waythe investigation is conducted. Therefore, I request that this statement be added to the list of evidence,” the lawyer noted.
After a brief deliberation, the judge granted all of the motions except the one on inviting additional witnesses. The judge said the motion to summon additional witnesses could not be considered at the current stage. So, the judge deferred the examination of the motion.
Examination of witnesses:
Balababa Allahnazarov testified at the hearing as a witness. He said he had been summoned and interrogated by the MOCD for ‘liking’ a Facebook post by Fuad Gahramanli. “I consider Fuad Gahramanli’s post as public censure. I liked his post and wrote a comment to it. I believe there is nothing illegal about it. I fully recant my statement provided to the investigation. I wrote a post and was therefore summoned by the investigative agency. I am unaware of the content of my statement, as I have not written it myself. They had me sign the statement under pressure and threats against my family. After signing, I read it and was shocked by what was written there. I tried to add something with my own handwriting, but I was not allowed to do it ,” the witness noted.
The witness added that Fuad Gahramanli’s post had not instilled into him any anti-government sentiment or thoughts about hostility or violent coup.
Next, Elkhan Mammadov, a self-employed taxi driver, testified as a witness. He also said he had written a comment under Fuad Gahramanli’s Facebook post. He noted that he had not been subjected to pressure during the investigation. Mammadov added that he did not approve of Fuad Gahramanli’s opinions as Gahramanli was calling for protest rallies.
Lawyer Yalchin Imanov asked the witness why his testimony was completely identical to those of the other witnesses previously questioned in relation to Fuad Gahramanli. The witness said he did not know.
Thereafter, Zahid Mehdiyev testified as a witness. He said he had been summoned for interrogation due to Fuad Gahramanli’s post. He said he had not been pressured during the investigation. Mehdiyev said he had known Fuad Gahramanli from social networks. The witness noted that he had written a comment where he criticised Europe for its policy of double standards towards Azerbaijan. He further said he did not share Fuad Gahramanli’s opinion and was against his thoughts calling for riots and rallies. The witness said he regretted writing a comment to Fuad Gahramanli’s post.
After that, the presiding judge announced that witness Adil Abdulaliyev had moved abroad.
The judge also said the court had received a response from Baku City Prosecutor’s Office to witnesses Samir Babayev’s and Valeh Abbasov’s appeal on having been subjected to pressure at Sabunchu DPD. The judge said the allegations were not confirmed by the letter from the prosecutor’s office.
The next court hearing was set for 14 November, 10.30am.