SUPREME COURT PLENUM JUDGMENT ON EYNULLA FATULLAYEV CHANGED

December 6th, 2010
Imprisoned journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, currently held in Baku Investigative Prison, has released a statement.

In his statement, journalist says that he was astonished when he read the Supreme Court Plenum judgment of 11 November.
“I couldn’t believe in my eyes when I read the text. I re-read the decision several times. The judgment had been amended! The 11 November judgment made in the plenary meeting of Supreme Court and published in press was not what was written on the document.”
“According to the 11 November judgment, the plenary meeting of Supreme Court changed the Serious Crimes Court's 30 October 2007 decision, and increased Fatullayev's prison term for tax evasion from 4  months (in reality, the term was reduced by 2 months when  the imprisonment terms for different charges were all added up) to 2 years and 3 months. It seemed to that my lawyer's numerous statements to the press on the illegality of the extension of the imprisonment had not been in vain. But now, with a view to justifying part of my illegal detention in prison, the Plenum has made an even more ridiculous and illegal ruling.

Newspaper readers may remember my investigations of a criminal gang led by former top-ranking police officer Haji Mammadov. My articles “Fall of the Antibiotic” and “Robber Baku” resonated strongly with my readership. Interior Minister Ramil Usubov then appealed to Yasamal District Court to try to get me imprisoned under a defamation charge. On 26 September, 2006, Yasamal District Court sentenced me to 2 years of imprisonment for the “Fall of  the Antibiotic”, but immediately replaced my detention sentence with one of conditional release.

I appealed against the decision and was prepared to the European Court of Human Rights. However, on the eve of the appeal hearing, Usubov’s official and authorised representative came to me with a bargain: that if I refrained from going to the ECHR, my sentence would be reduced to one year, and be annuled after a few months. We had a gentleman's agreement, and consequently, I didn’t appeal to the Supreme Court.

Later I was imprisoned under other charges. When the imprisonment terms were added together, the punishment for Usubov’s lawsuit was annulled, and I served it within my total imprisonment term. When appealing to the ECHR, I did not touch include this decision, because I that would have been a violation of gentleman's agreement”

Fatullayev says that the plenary meeting of the Supreme Court annulled the 22 December 2006 decision of the Appeals Court and changed the 26 September 2006 decision of Yasamal District Court by replacing the 2 years of conditional release with 2 years of real imprisonment. But somehow the imprisonment term for this charge commenced on 3 July, 2007, instead of 26 September 2006. "This means that all my suffering during the 9 months of detention in the National Security Ministry Isolation Prison and in the Prison #12 is a direct consequence of my criticism of Haji Mammadov’s gang and their supporters. This is what can be inferred from the Supreme Court judgment.”

Fatullayev notes that the Supreme Court Plenum will actually put his writing back in the limelight. “By bringing this case to the surface, the Plenum allowed us to take Usubov’s issue to the ECHR. Let the European Judges and lawyers read investigative reports about Azerbaijani police, and then make a fair decision.”

BACKGROUND

On the 20th of April, 2007, Fatullayev was arrested in court after a ruling by the Yasamal District Court on the lawsuit brought by Refugee/IDP Rights Defense Committee chairperson Tatyana Chaladze. After Fatullayev’s arrest, a criminal case was opened against him by the National Security Ministry Chief Investigative Office, regarding an article published in Realniy Azerbaijan newspaper. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the article caused foreign citizens and representatives of international organizations to be concerned for their safety. He was convicted under Articles 214.1 and 283.2.2 of the Criminal Code:  threatening terror and  incitement of ethnic/national, social or religious hatred abusing authority. He was sentenced to pre-trial detention. Fatullayev was then convicted under 213.2.2 (tax evasion). He was finally sentenced to 8.5 years in prison on the 30th of October, 2007 and fined 242,522 AZN by the Grave Crimes Court.
On the 29th of December, 2009, 0.223 grams of heroin was reportedly found on Fatullayev in Prison #12 and on the 6th of July, 2010, Fatullayev was found guilty under article 234.1 (illegal possession of narcotics in an amount exceeding the limit for personal consumption) of the Criminal Code. His sentence of two years and six months in prison began on the same date. Fatullayev and his lawyer believe that this incident was a set-up, organized so that the court could avoid complying with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the journalist's release.
On the 22nd of April, 2010, the ECHR issued a decision that Fatullayev should be released immediately, and that the Azerbaijani government should pay 27,822 EUR to Fatullayev in compensation. The Plenum of Supreme Court partially fulfilled this decision on November 11. Fatullayev is recognized as a prisoner of conscience by local and international organizations.   
Fatullayev established and was the Editor-in-chief of both Realniy Azerbaijan and Gundelik Azerbaijan newspapers. First published in 2005, Realniy Azerbaijan ran as a weekly newspaper, while Gundelik Azerbaijan was published daily. The newspapers stopped running after Fatullayev's arrest in 2007.