Today, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan, chaired by Hafiz Nasibov, considered the cassation appeal of the editor Polad Aslanov, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison on charges of treason.
During the meeting, the defendant’s lawyer Elchin Sadigov pointed out to the journalist that the accusation was groundless. Within 19 hours after his detention in June 2019, he was subjected to psychological pressure and confessed under the threat of arrest of his wife.
The lawyer said that Aslanov was arrested because of the publication of three articles that spoke of extortion of intelligence officers from travel companies organizing pilgrimage trips to Iran.
These publications were also mentioned in the materials of the prosecution. The prosecution claimed that Aslanov had secret meetings in Iran with a representative of the special services. However, these claims lack credible evidence.
In addition, some witnesses did not appear in court and the court did not ensure their forced appearance, therefore their testimony cannot be considered evidence. The witnesses who spoke in court did not testify directly against Aslanov.
The lawyer noted that the journalist was persecuted precisely for his professional activities, criticism of the special services and asked the court to acquit him.
Aslanov himself supported the speech of the lawyer and pointed out that for three years after his arrest, he and his family were subjected to pressure.
He urged the Supreme Court to stop restoring justice so that he would not seek justice in the European Court.
The state official, in turn, stated that Aslanov’s guilt was proved, but taking into account extenuating circumstances – the absence of a previous conviction, as well as his marital status, the presence of a minor child – to mitigate the punishment and reduce the prison sentence by 3 years.
After the meeting, the court partially changed the verdict of the Baku Court of Appeal, reducing the sentence from 16 to 13 years in prison.
Lawyer Sadygov told reporters that now the defense will appeal to the Strasbourg court.
The founder and head of xeberman.com, Polad Aslanov, was arrested in June 2019 on charges of treason and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Human rights activists recognized him as a political prisoner.