Supreme Court Reduces Jail Sentence of Opposition Party Activist Asif Yusifli

May 4th, 2016

Summary: Hearing 1 (May 4)

  • Asif Yusifli’s lawyer Fakhraddin Mehdiyev spoke at the hearing and requested his client’s acquittal;

  • Public prosecutor Mustajab Aliyev gave a very brief speech, deeming the cassational complaint unfounded and requesting its dismissal;

  • The Judicial Chamber decided to reduce Asif Yusifli’s 7.5-year jail sentence by 1 year and 6 months. 

The Supreme Court, chaired by judge Ali Seyfaliyev, held a hearing on the cassational complaint brought by Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Presidium member Asif Yusifli, who is also Karabakh war veteran with a first-category disability.

Asif Yusifli was arrested on November 25, 2014 and charged under Articles 178 (fraud) and 320 (falsification of documents) of the Criminal Code. According to the indictment, victim Farida Zulfugarova gave 6,500 AZN to Asif Yusifli so that the Education Ministry employee Rafig Huseynov arranged her (Zulfugarova’s) son’s transfer from an Azerbaijani university to a Ukrainian one.  Asif Yusifli gave this money to Rafig Huseynov. But Huseynov neither arranged the admission, nor returned the money. After Rafig Huseynov’s and Asif Yusifli’s arrest, Asif Yusifli’s family paid 8,000 AZN to victim Farida Zulfugarova. During the trial, Farida Zulfugarova admitted that she had received the money and Yusifli was not guilty in that matter. Zulfugarova withdrew her complaint for payment of damages. However, Asif Yusifli was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison by Baku Grave Crimes Court’s judgment of July 30 2015 (presiding judge Zeynal Agayev). The judgment was upheld by Baku Appeal Court’s decision of October 10 2015.

Trial Analysis by the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS)

According to Article 28.1 of the Criminal Procedure Code, courts shall hear criminal cases and other prosecution matters in accordance with the legal procedures established by this Code, on the basis of the facts and of impartiality and justice. Furthermore, according to Article 32.2.3 of the same Code, the prosecution shall seek to prove the criminal act, the components of the statutory offence, the involvement of the accused in committing this offence and the possible criminal responsibility of the accused, and shall offer suggestions as to the legal classification of the accused person’s act and in regard to the final decision of the court.

However, the prosecution failed to prove Asif Yusifli’s guilt during the court proceedings, and thus an illegal verdict was issued.

  

According to Article 55.1 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a person whose guilt has not been not proven during the trial shall be publicly and immediately declared innocent on behalf of the Azerbaijani Republic at the same court hearing, and shall be acquitted by the court.

In the current case, the Supreme Court violated this provision by failing to acquit Asif Yusifli.

Court hearing:

The defendant Asif Yusifli did not attend today’s hearing. According to the law, if the accused person does not apply for participation in Supreme Court proceedings, the court hears the case in his absence. The hearing was attended by Asif Yusifli’s lawyer Fakhraddin Mehdiyev and public prosecutor Mustajab Aliyev.

Lawyer’s speech:

Asif Yusifli’s lawyer, Fakhraddin Mehdiyev, gave a speech at the hearing. He stated that Asif Yusifli’s action did not constitute a crime, that he had not been proven guilty, and that the court had reached a decision that failed to reflect the facts of the case.

Fakhraddin Mehdiyev noted that Asif Yusifli had been arrested by the Department for Combating Organized Crime on November 25, 2014. On  November 26, 2014, he was charged under Articles 178.3.2 (fraud) and 320.1 (falsification of documents) of the Criminal Code and was detained based on the ruling by Narimanov District Court.

“Asif Yusifli pleaded not guilty to the charges. He said that he had received 6,500 AZN from Farida Zulfugarova in 2009 as the tuition fee for her son. He gave the money to Rafig Huseynov to get the job done. He believed that Rafig Huseynov worked for the Ministry of Education and would help with the transfer from the Azerbaijani university to a Ukrainian one. However, Rafig Huseynov was unable to do this. Therefore, he gave Farida Zulfugarova a receipt, declaring that they had taken her money as a loan and would pay it back. After Rafig Huseynov was arrested, Asif Yusifli had a car accident and sustained a serious injury, for which he received long-term in-patient treatment. Immediately after the treatment, Asif Yusifli repaid 1,500 AZN of the money to Farida Zulfugarova and 400 AZN to her son Ilgar Ibrahimov. The delay in repaying the remaining amount was due to his hospitalization. After his arrest, the amount was repaid in full by his parents. The total amount paid to Farida Zulfugarova by him and his parents was 8,100 AZN. He gave the 6,500 AZN which he had received from Farida Zulfugarova to Rafig Huseynov for the tuition fee, and therefore misappropriation of the money is out of the question. During her testimony, Zulfugarova told the court that she did not have any claim, demand or complaint against Asif Yusifli, as she had been repaid 6,500 AZN by Asif Yusifli’s parents. Rafig Huseynov also testified that Asif Yusifli was not guilty of the charges. Asif Yusifli handed over the money he had received from Farida Zulfugarova to cover the tuition fee. Asif Yusifli’s intention was to help Farida Zulfugarova,” said the lawyer.

The lawyer also noted that the forensic handwriting opinion of December 24 2014 indicated that the signature on the student card had been executed by Rafig Huseynov.

“As can be seen, the evidence referred to by the court excludes Asif Yusifli’s guilt and fails to meet the standard of reliability of evidence. The above circumstances do not constitute the crimes specified in Articles 178.3.2 and 320.1 of the Criminal Code. The Court of Appeal did not conduct its own objective investigation of the case, but copied the text from Baku Grave Crimes Court’s judgment into its own decision . In accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code, I request that the court annuls the Baku Appeal Court’s decision of October 10, 2015 against Asif Yusifli and discontinues the criminal case on exculpatory grounds,” declared the lawyer.

Public prosecutor Mustajab Aliyev requested that the cassational complaint be rejected as unfounded.

After a 4-minute deliberation, the Judicial Chamber announced the final decision. The court decided to reduce Yusifli’s original 7.5-year jail sentence by 1 year and 6 months, thereby sentencing Asif Yusifli to 6 years in prison.