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Summary : Hearing 1
Supreme Court chaired by Judge Ali Seyfaliyev heard an appeal filed by REAL Movement chairman Ilgar Mammadov and journalist Tofig Yagublu.
Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu were arrested on 4 February 2013, in the wake of the protests that swept Azerbaijan’s north-western city Ismayilli on 23 January 2013 and resulted in the arson of the “Chirag” Hotel and four cars in the city. The protests broke out after the Chirag Hotel employee, Emil Shamsaddinov caused a road accident due to drunk driving, after which he and his passenger, Elmaddin Mammadov beat up and injured Ramil Bakirov who was nearby, and insulted the local residents before the very eyes of the crowd, who had gathered in the area of incident. More than 15 people, who had participated in the protests, as well as Emil Shamsaddinov and Elmaddin Mammadov, were later arrested. Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu travelled to Ismayilli one day after the protests, on 24 January, in their capacities as a political figure and a journalist respectively, to get firsthand information from locals about what had happened.
Yagublu and Mammadov were initially charged under Articles 233 (organisation of actions promoting infringement of the public order or active participation in such actions) and 315 (resistance to a representative of authority) of the Criminal Code. Later, the charge under Article 233 was dropped, and a new charge under Article 220.1 (organisation of mass disorders accompanied by violence, pillage, arson or destruction of property or participation in such disorders) was brought against them.
By Shaki Grave Crimes Court’s judgment of 17 March 2014, Ilgar Mammadov was sentenced to sevenyears and Tofig Yagublu to five years in prison. The appeal against the verdict was denied by Saki Appeal Court. On 13 October 2015, Supreme Court sent the case back to Shaki Appeal Court for re-consideration. Shaki Appeal Court upheld the verdict by its decision of 29 April 2016. Journalist Tofig Yagublu was released under the president’s pardon decree of 17 March 2016.
On 22 May 2014, European Court of Human Rights recognised violation of Ilgar Mammadov’s rights under Articles 5.1 and 5.4 (right to liberty), 6.2 (presumption of innocence) and 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The appeal was heard in Ilgar Mammadov’s absence as he had not expressed his intention to participate in the proceedings in accordance with the law. The hearing was attended by journalist Tofig Yagublu, who albeit released under the presidential pardon decree of 17 March 2016 was seeking a full acquittal, Ilgar Mammadov’s lawyers Javad Javadov and Fuad Agayev, public prosecutor Mustajam Aliyev.
Lawyer Fuad Agayev made the first speech at the hearing. He noted that, contrary to what the indictment bill stated, Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu went to Ismayilli region on 24 January 2013. “The disturbances in Ismayilli took place on 23 January. It is clear from the video recordings of Unibank’s ATM and other videos filmed by journalists, as well as from the interview given by Nizami Alakbarov, the then head of Ismayilli regional executive power, no unrest took place at the time when Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu were in Ismayilli.”
“Shaki Grave Crimes Court did not allow us to use technical means, and I was issued a fine for objecting to the composition of the jury. Ilgar Mammadov’s lawyer Khalid Bagirov was disbarred after the judge complained to the Bar Association about him. Our right of defence has been grossly violated by lower courts. We exposed the perjury by prosecution witnesses. Police officer Faraj Azizov, who had been recognised as a victim, was dismissed by the order of the Ministry of Internal Affairs after recanting his statement against Ilgar Mammadov. In other words, the investigating authority and the courts were biased in their handling of this case and failed to issue a fair decision,” the lawyer said.
Fuad Agayev concluded his speech by asking the court to reverse Shaki Appeal Court’s decision of 29 April 2016 and to drop the criminal proceedings against Ilgar Mammadov.
Mammadov’s other lawyer Javad Javadov said the European Court of Human Rights had issued a ruling on Ilgar Mammadov’s detention and started communication [with the government] on the complaint submitted in regard to this case. “The European Court of Human Rights has launched the communication without waiting for the final decision and addressed its questions to the government. You should render a fair decision and prevent the issuance of yet another judgment against Azerbaijan. I request you to grant the appeal,” Javad Javadov said.
In his speech, journalist Tofig Yagublu said the state of Azerbaijan had no foundation, because ‘they say justice is the foundation of the state; if there is no justice it means the state has no foundation’.
“During the trial we presented video footages and called witnesses. All of them confirmed that no unrest occurred when we were in Ismayilli. It was barely 5 to 10 minutes since my arrival in Ismayilli when I was taken to Ismayilli Regional Police Department and was held there for 40 minutes. After that, a police car accompanied me to the traffic police post of Baku. In other words, they did not allow me to remain in the city. On 24 January 2013, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor General’s Office released a joint statement that there was peace and quiet in Ismayilli and the region was taken under full control. If any disturbance had occurred while we were there, why it was nots mentioned in the joint statement? These accusations are false. Police officers have been recognised as victims and have stated that they suffered moral damage, but it is unclear what the moral damage they suffered was,” Tofig Yagublu said.
The journalist asked the court to grant him a full acquittal and to order that 500,000 EUR is paid to him as compensation in material and moral damages for the time he had been illegally held in prison.
The public prosecutor said the arguments by the appeallants were unfounded and asked the court to reject the appeal.
After a brief deliberation, the court declared that the appeal was dismissed and Shaki Appeal Court’s decision of 29 April 2016 was upheld.
“The president, who fearing his rival cannot hide his prejudice against the rival at the state level, will go down in history only with his lack of self-confidence,” said Ilgar Mammadov commenting on the court’s decision from Prison #2 where he is held.