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On January 30 the Baku Grave Crimes Court held a hearing on the case of Khural newspaper chief editor Avaz Zeynalli. Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva presided over the hearing. Witnesses provided testimonies. Witness Aynur Imranova, employee of Kanal 13 internet television, said that she had invited Avaz Zeynalli to a program scheduled for October 28, 2011. Imranova stated that 5 minutes before the start of the program she called Zeynalli, who told her that he was arrested.
Experts Ilhama Guliyeva and Latif Aliyev, who examined the voice recordings based on which Zeynalli was arrested, also testified. Both of the experts said that they were given not the original recordings, but the copies. They also noted that it was impossible to determine which of the recordings was recorded earlier. Note that former MP Gular Ahmadova, who had recorded her conversations with Avaz Zeynalli on the phone and in Khural’s office, claims that Zeynalli demanded bribe from her.
Citing the coincidence between the date of expert opinion on Zeynalli’s case and the date of issue of expert Guliyeva’s service certificate, lawyer Elchin Sadigov suspected that Guliyeva was employed expressly to give expert opinion on the case of the journalist.
When the judge invited Tax Ministry expert Elchin Aliyev to provide testimony, Zeynalli and his lawyers expressed their objections saying that Aliyev will most probably confirm the decision of tax audit of Khural newspaper, and they requested the judge to invite an independent expert. The judge decided to send the tax audit decision to the forensic examination department of the Ministry of Justice.
The trial was postponed until February 6, 2pm.
Avaz Zeynalli, was arrested on October 28, 2011 following a lawsuit brought by MP Gular Ahmadova on October 19, 2011. The Anti-Corruption Office launched a criminal case against Zeynalli under article 311.3.3 (taking a large bribe) and article 311.3.4 (extortion). Later he was charged under article 306 (contempt of court) and article 213.1 (tax evasion). A large number of local and international human rights organizations strongly believe that the charges against Avaz Zeynalli are trumped-up and that he was arrested for his articles criticizing high-ranking state officials.