Prosecution Witnesses Questioned in Trial of Ganimat Zahid’s Relatives


Summary: Hearing 6 (March 28)

  • Witnesses – Rovshan Zahidov’s wife Leyla Ibrahimova, Shamakhi Regional Police Department’s operating officer Baba Atakishiyev and attesting witnesses Mehman Hidayetov and Seymur Adgozelov – were questioned at the hearing;

  • Witness Leyla Ibrahimova said the drugs had been put into her husband’s jacket pocket by one of those who came to search the house;

  • Shamakhi Regional Police Department’s operating officer Baba Atakishiyev testified that Rovshan Zahidov’s house in Gurdtapa village of Shamakhi region had been searched and during the search, a bag of drugs was found and seized from the inner chest pocket of a grey men’s jacket in the house;

  • The attesting witnesses said a folded bag containing white substance was found in a jacket pocket during the search.  

Baku Grave Crimes Court, under chairmanship of Judge Eldar Mikayilov, continued the hearing on the criminal case of Rufat and Rovshan Zahidov, who are arraigned on drug charges. Rufat and Rovshan Zahidov are relatives of Ganimat Zahid, the editor-in-chief of Azadliq newspaper and the host of the Azerbaijani Hour TV program who currently lives in exile in France. Rufat Zahidov is Ganimat Zahid’s nephew and Rovshan Zahidov is his cousin. Rufat and Rovshan Zahidov were arrested in July 2015, and are charged under Articles 234.4.1 (illegal manufacturing, processing, purchase, storage, transfer, transportation or selling of narcotics or psychotropic substances – on preliminary arrangement by a group of persons) and 234.4.3 (- in large amount) of the Criminal Code.

Questioning of prosecution witnesses:

Prosecution witnesses were interrogated at the hearing. At lawyer Tahir Khanaliyev’s request, Rovshan Zahidov’s wife Leyla Ibrahimova testified first. “After Rovshan was arrested, on July 24, 2015, we saw a white Niva car in front of the door of our house. It was roaming around our house. When our family went to a funeral in Shamakhi at several minutes past 2 o’clock, 50-60 men busted our house. I was alone at home. They started to search the home.  Everything was scattered around. There was a thin man among them, who told me “let’s move into the other room.” We moved into the dark room, where a jacket was hung. He asked whose it was and I said it was Rovshan’s. I saw him put something into its pocket. I asked what it was, then took the jacket and we came to the light room. He went and stood aside. Then they told me to take out what was in the pocket. I asked what it was, but they again told me to take it out. I took it out and I saw it was something wrapped in cellophane and tied up with a rope. I said “there was nothing like this in the jacket’s pocket, and it is you who put it.” They told me to untie it and I did and quickly threw it onto the coffer. It was something powdery and was scattered a bit on the coffer. They were filming the process. Then they had me to sign a document. Then they took that thing and the jacket and went away,” Ibrahimova said. 

The witness was then cross-examined by the public prosecutor and the lawyers. Answering the lawyer Tahir Khanaliyev’s questions, the witness said Rovshan Zahidov had never ever been summoned to the police office before July 20, and when he was summoned on July 20, they did not allow her to meet with him there.

Lawyer Tahir Khanaliyev then asked about the possibility of putting pricy drugs such as heroin into a pocket of the jacket, which was at everyone’s fingertips. “Heroin is quite expensive. Could something that expensive be put into a jacket accessible to and used by everyone?” In response, Rovshan Zahidov said “I was arrested on July 20, and our house was searched on July 24. Couldn’t I just send a message to home through someone by July 24? I can barely pay my 50 AZN monthly loan repayment. I don’t have money to buy heroin. Only a lunatic would put heroin into the pocket of a jacket used by everyone.”

When asked by the lawyer “Did they explain your rights and duties to you when taking your statement?” the witness said, “They only told me that if you refuse to sign, your husband will be in trouble. They forced me to sign. I don’t even know the Latin alphabet. We have not had any ties with Ganimat Zahidov or his family members. We did not talk to them.” 

In response to the presiding judge’s question “When giving the statement, did you tell the investigator that the drugs had been planted,” Leyla Ibrahimova replied “The investigator himself was there and everything happened right before his eyes.”

Shamakhi Regional Police Department’s operating officer Baba Atakishiyev testified next. “On July 20, 2015, Rovshan Zahidov’s house in Gurdtapa village of Shamakhi region was searched with the participation of officers from the Main Drug Enforcement Department of the Interior Ministry and investigators from Sabail District Police Department, and during the search, a bag of drugs was found and seized from the inner chest pocket of a grey men’s jacket in the house,” the witness said.   

Then the attesting witness, taxi driver Mehman Hidayetov took the stand. Hidayetov said he was invited to be an attesting witness when he was in Gurdtapa village of Shamakhi. Lawyer Tahir Khanaliyev called attention to an inconsistence between the attesting witnesses’ court testimony and his statement included in the bill of indictment: “The attesting witness now says he was invited when he was in Gurdtapa village of Shamakhi, but in his statement provided to the investigator it says “on Shamakhi-Mughanli road.” Shamakhi-Mughanli road is Shamakhi’s outskirts.”  

When asked by the lawyer Bahruz Bayramov “Were your rights and duties explained to you?” the witness said “No.” The lawyer then said “If you don’t know your rights and duties, it means you were taken there compulsorily. You don’t know your rights and duties, but you testify as an attesting witness. Given that the search was attended by an attesting witness not knowing his rights and duties and brought compulsorily, this search is unlawful and thus referring to that search and seizure report as evidence is also unlawful and thus an acquittal judgment should be delivered,” the lawyer said.  

After that, the attesting witness Seymur Adgozelov testified. While testifying, the attesting witness said he could neither read nor write in the Latin alphabet, which was met with objections from the lawyers. “The attesting witness cannot read in the Latin alphabet, but his statements in the case file reads “I read my statement.” The presiding judge’s reply “Perhaps, someone read it to him” draw even more fire from the lawyer. “I am objecting to the composition of the bench. The court gives a tip to the attesting witness “Say they read it to you,” the lawyer said. In response, the presiding judge said the objection had to be submitted in writing.

Lawyer Tahir Khanaliyev asked the witness “What was inside the folded bag?” Seymur Adgozelov replied “It was something green like grass.” The lawyers laughed at this reply, and said that the substance found inside the folded bag was white and powdery.  

The next hearing will be held on April 12, at 14.00.

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