Taleh Bagirzade and Others Stand Trial over Nardaran Incidents

July 19th, 2016

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Summary: Hearing 1

 The preliminary hearing held in Baku Grave Crimes Court started with verification of the personal information of the accused persons;
 At the hearing, defendant Shamil Abdulaliyev’s lawyer Dilara Valiyeva filed a motion to release her client under house arrest;
 During the court session, Muslim Union Movement’s chairman Taleh Bagirzade said he wanted to lodge two motions. First, he requested that Fuad Gahramanli be released. Secondly, he asked the court to remove the booklet titled “Haji Taleh Bagirzade’s Appeal” from the list of evidence. The judge said the motions would be addressed in the preliminary hearing decision;
 Defendant Fuad Gahramanli, deputy chairman of opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), objected to the fact that National Council’s chairman Jamil Hasanli and APFP chairman Ali Karimli, who came to observe the proceedings, were denied access to the courtroom;
 Fuad Gahramanli’s lawyer Yalchin Imanov solicited to release Gahramanli from the cage and seat him next to his lawyers. The court denied his request;
 Gahramanli’s lawyer Yalchin Imanov then filed another motion, requesting that Gahramanli’s criminal case be separated from the case launched into Nardaran incidents, to discontinue his court proceedings and to return the case to the investigating authority. The motion was rejected;
 Fuad Gahramanli’s other lawyer Nemat Karimli moved the court to terminate the criminal case against his client;
 Lawyer Yalchin Imanov lodged motions to replace Fuad Gahramanli’s pretrial detention with house arrest and to exclude the inadmissible evidence from the case;
 Yalchin Imanov then requested the court to allow audio and video recording of the hearing;
 While commenting on his lawyers’ motions, Fuad Gahramanli noted that his first statement provided to the investigating authority had been tampered with by the investigator;
 Gulshan Salmanova, lawyer of Ramin Yariyev who was not of full age at the time of arrest, sought termination of the criminal case against her client;
 Taleh Bagirov’s lawyer Elchin Sadigov filed a motion to obtain the personal records of the two police officers killed during the Nardaran operation from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and to attach them to the case file;
 Defendant Zakir Mustafayev’s lawyer Abil Bayramov said his client’s statement had been extracted under torture;
 Defendant Abbas Huseynov’s lawyer Fariz Namazli said a number of documents had not been served upon the defense. He noted that in his first statement Abbas Huseynov had stated that he had not committed any crime. However, quite the opposite was stated in the statements taken through torture after just one day;
 Abbas Huseynov said he had been subjected to torture at the “anti-gang division” (Main Organized Crime Department);
 The court said it would decide the lawyers’ motions at the end of the preliminary hearing, and set the next hearing date for July 22, 12.00pm.

Baku Grave Crimes Court, chaired by Judge Alovsat Abbasov, held a preliminary hearing on the criminal case of Muslim Union Movement’s Chairman Taleh Bagirzade, Jabrayilov Rasim Mirzababa oglu, Mustafayev Zakir Tapdig oglu, Jabbarov Jabbar Amirkhan oglu, Babakishizade Jahad Babahuseyn oglu, Abdulaliyev Shamil Adil oglu, Ismayilov Agil Azer oglu, Yariyev Ramin Maharram oglu, Guliyev Abbas Abdulrahman oglu, Khudaverdiyev Ibrahim Mammad oglu, Ismayilov Etibar Rasim oglu, Asgarov Bahruz Rahib oglu, Nuriyev Ali Hasrat oglu, Valiyev Alibala Javad oglu, Balayev Farhad Nasraddin oglu and Tagizade Abbas Hafiz oglu, who are charged under Articles 120.2.1 (homicide, committed by a group of people, a group of people on preliminary arrangement, an organized group or a criminal community/organization), 120.2.3 (homicide, of the victim or his close relatives in connection to performance of service or public duty by the victim), 120.2.4 (homicide, committed with special cruelty or in publicly dangerous way), 120.2.7 (homicide, of two or more persons), 120.2.12 (homicide, with the motive of national, racial, religious hatred or enmity), 29 (attempted crime), 214.2.1 (terrorism, committed by a group of people on preliminary arrangement, an organized group or a criminal community/organization), 28 (preparing to commit a crime), 214.2.3 (terrorism, committed with use of fire-arms or objects used as a weapon), 214-2 (open calls for terrorism), 220.2 (incitement to active insubordination to lawful demands of a representative of authority and to mass disorders, as well as to violence against citizens), 228.3 (illegal acquisition, transfer, selling, storage, transportation or carrying of fire-arms, their accessories, supplies and explosives, committed by an organized group), 228.4 (illegal acquisition, selling or carrying of a gas weapon, cold steel, as well as a throwing weapon, except for places where carrying of a cold steel is an accessory of a national suit or is connected to hunting), 278 (violent seizure or retention of power), 279 (creation of armed formations or groups not provided for by the legislation), 281.2 (public appeals directed against the state, committed repeatedly or by a group of people), 283.2.3 (instigation of national, racial, social or religious hatred and hostility, committed by an organized group), and 315.2 (resistance to or use of violence against a representative of authority) of the Criminal Code. In addition to the above, Huseynov Abbas Mammadbagir oglu is charged under Article 233 (organization of actions violating public order or active participation in such actions) of the Criminal Code. APFP Deputy Chairman Fuad Gahramanli in his turn 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. An armed incident occurred between a group of believers and policemen in Nardaran settlement of Baku on November 26, 2015, 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 on the fact and is investigated by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan Republic. Fuad Gahramanli was arrested on December 8, 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.
A number of police officers and plainclothesmen from the State Security Service (former Ministry of National Security) were guarding at the entrances to the court building. According to a pre-arranged list, only the defendants’ family members and two pro-government journalists were allowed to attend the hearing. Dozens of members of the public, including APFP Chairman Ali Karimli and National Council Chairman Jamil Hasanli, journalists and embassy representatives (French and British embassies) were denied access to the courtroom.

At today’s hearing, the defendants’ personal information was verified first.

After that, the judge asked whether the defendants had any objection to the jury composition. From the defendants, APFP deputy chairman Fuad Gahramanli retorted: “My objection is to this regime. Nothing will change if judges change. Therefore, I do not object to the panel.”

During the court session, Muslim Union Movement’s chairman Taleh Bagirzade said he wanted to lodge two motions. First, he requested that Fuad Gahramanli be released. “I was subjected to unimaginable torture for three days at the “anti-gang division.” Beating or electrocution does not come close to what I suffered. I was exposed to such unspeakable torture. They were forcing me to say that the National Council, Ali Karimli and Jamil Hasanli were behind the Nardaran incidents. I tolerated these tortures for three days. After I stood all these tortures at the “anti-gang division,” they were forced to arrest Fuad Gahramanli over his Facebook posts. Every one of these people is innocent. Fuad Gahramanli’s matter is totally absurd. He must be released immediately and unconditionally,” Taleh Bagirzade said.

In his second motion, Taleh Bagirzade asked the court to remove the booklet titled “Haji Taleh Bagirzade’s Appeal” from the list of evidence. “In reference to that booklet it is alleged that I have called for the establishment of an Islamic state in Azerbaijan, and spoke about Nardaran events and Hijab protest. If this book was published before November 26, how could I speak about Nardaran events before they happened? And after November 26, I was at the “anti-gang division.” Did I make the call from there? Muslim Union Movement never wanted an Islamic state to be established in Azerbaijan. We simply want a government change. And the government is not the same as the state. It is this government, who keeps our lands under occupation. Therefore, the booklet must be excluded from the evidence list,” Bagirzade added. The judge said the motions would be addressed in the preliminary hearing decision.

After that, defendant Fuad Gahramanli objected to the fact that National Council’s chairman Jamil Hasanli and APFP chairman Ali Karimli, who came to observe the proceedings, were denied access to the courtroom. “This is an open hearing and anyone can observe. If it happens once more, we will hold a protest. We will turn our face to the wall and refuse to testify.” In response to this, the judge said that since it was an open hearing, there was no problem in enabling them to attend. However, the court supervisors replied that there was no empty seat in the courtroom and only the defendants’ family members were allowed to attend.

Lawyer Yalchin Imanov solicited to release Fuad Gahramanli from the cage and seat him next to his lawyers. “Two of the charges filed against Fuad Gahramanli belong to the category of less serious crimes, and one to that of serious crimes. It is necessary that he consults his lawyers and receives legal assistance on an ongoing basis. The charges brought against Fuad Gahramanli have nothing to do with Nardaran events,” the lawyer said. The court did not grant his motion.

Fuad Gahramanli’s lawyer Yalchin Imanov then filed another motion, requesting that Fuad Gahramanli’s criminal case be separated from the case launched into Nardaran incidents, to discontinue his court proceedings and to return the case to the investigating authority. “Fuad Gahramanli was arrested for his Facebook posts. We believe that the charges against him are politically motivated. The objective is to portray the political party he is affiliated to as radically religious. The investigating authority is referring to his 10 posts dating from September 7 to December 8, some of which are strongly critical of the government, others analyze religious ignorance, and the rest deal with the Nardaran events, giving an accurate assessment of what had happened. The nature of Fuad Gahramanli’s case and the charges filed against him requires this case to be examined separately,” the lawyer said while justifying his motion. The motion was rejected.

Fuad Gahramanli’s other lawyer Nemat Karimli moved the court to terminate the criminal case against his client. “The decision to charge Fuad Gahramanli clearly shows that he has been charged over his Facebook posts. His action does not constitute a crime and for this reason his criminal case must be terminated,” the lawyer noted.

Next, lawyer Yalchin Imanov lodged motions to replace Fuad Gahramanli’s pretrial detention with house arrest and to exclude the inadmissible evidence from the case. “Some of the witnesses, who have given evidence in Fuad Gahramanli’s case, are those who liked his posts or commented on them. I request that their statements be removed from the evidence list. The decision to hold an expert review of the Facebook posts was made on December 8, 2015, but the expert opinion was obtained on April 4, 2016. According to the law, the expert opinion must be provided within one month. Due to this violation of the requirement of the law, the expert opinion must also be removed from the evidence list,” Imanov said.

Yalchin Imanov then requested the court to allow audio and video recording of the hearing.

While commenting on his lawyers’ motions, Fuad Gahramanli noted that his first statement provided to the investigating authority had been tampered with by the investigator. “They have written that I allegedly called upon people to martyr themselves in the struggle for power. Where is that post? This is beyond a lie, this is shamelessness. In the course of the proceedings, I will demand that the investigator be summoned and questioned. They have written that I likened the government to a guilty power. Is likening the government to a guilty power a crime? This is a violation of the already nominal law in Azerbaijan, committed by using the logic of 1937s,” Gahramanli said.

After that, Gulshan Salmanova, lawyer of Ramin Yariyev who was not of full age at the time of arrest, sought termination of the criminal case against her client. “Although Ramin’s both parents are alive, the investigating authority assigned none of them but an executive power employee as his legal representative for preliminary investigation activities concerning him. However, even this executive power employee was not present during the implementation of investigative activities and Ramin’s interrogation. Ramin was forced to make confession under torture. After I joined the case, I filed a motion with Narimanov district court. On the day of the hearing, the investigating authority called Ramin’s father and recognized him as his legal representative. And the court granted our motion, invalidating the investigative activities conducted about Ramin Yariyev prior to his father’s registration as his legal representative. The only evidence against Ramin is his own confession. Taking into account the fact that the court decision has deemed the investigative actions and the confession illegal, there is no other evidence and so, the criminal case must be discontinued and Ramin must be released.”

Next, Taleh Bagirov’s lawyer Elchin Sadigov filed a motion to obtain the personal records of the two police officers killed during the Nardaran operation from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and to attach them to the case file. “In the case file, there are only photographs of two persons, allegedly police officers, in underwear. It is said that their clothes were removed at the hospital of MIA. If so, those clothes should’ve also been sent for forensic expert review, and an expert opinion should’ve been obtained as to whether the marks on the clothes matched the marks on the corpses. However, the clothes are not there. The defense has not been served with the majority of the documents, including the expert opinions and the protocol on the examination of the scene,” Sadigov said.

Commenting on the motion, Taleh Bagirzade said: “At the prayer time, black-masked men attacked the house. Allegedly, the police had information that there was an armed gang, a terrorist group there and was conducting religious propaganda, and they came to render it harmless. If they came to render terrorists harmless, why were not they wearing body armor? It is the government itself who killed them, too. You should expect anything from the government, which has repeatedly planted drugs on theologians, slandered and arrested innocent people. To create an impression of terror, they sacrificed two of their employees as well, and had their hands stained with the blood of 4 believers. Mr. Judges, just as they shot the likes of Huseyn Javid in 1937 and acquitted them afterwards, the same is going to happen. Dismiss this case before it’s too late, if you don’t want to feel ashamed in front of your relatives when your names are mentioned in relation to these issues in the future,” Bagirzade said.

Defendant Zakir Mustafayev’s lawyer Abil Bayramov spoke next. “Although my client is introduced as a member of an organized group, he not only has not met with the other defendants, but has not had even a phone conversation with them. Since when is taking part in funeral repast or religious rites considered a crime? Zakir Mustafayev was arrested almost a month after the Nardaran events. His statement was taken through torture. He later recanted that statement,” the lawyer noted.

After that, defendant Abbas Huseynov’s lawyer Fariz Namazli said a number of documents had not been served upon the defense. He noted that in his first statement Abbas Huseynov had stated that he had not committed any crime. However, quite the opposite was stated in the statements taken through torture after just one day.

Abbas Huseynov confirmed that he had been tortured at the “anti-gang division.” “They had me sign the second statement under oppression. They have written that allegedly I possessed Kalashnikov. How come then there are not my handprints on the weapon? All of this is fiction. We were attacked by zombies, when we were performing the Namaz (prayer). We did not have any weapons,” Abbas Huseynov said.

The presiding judge said that he would decide the lawyers’ motions in the preliminary hearing decision, and that the preliminary hearing would continue on July 22, at 12.00pm.