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On 8 December, Baku Grave Crimes Court, chaired by Judge Eynulla Valiyev, continued the hearing on the case of NIDA Civic Movement member Bayram Mammadov, who faces charges of drug possession.
Bayram Mammadov was handcuffed throughout the proceedings.
The hearing was attended by members of the public, political party leaders Ali Karimli and Isa Gambar, a representative of the German Embassy, journalists and media workers.
Bayram Mammadov’s lawyer Elchin Sadigov requested for his client’s acquittal.
“A trial on yet another politically-motivated and trumped-up criminal case is coming to an end. Throughout the judicial proceedings, only one defence motion was granted, and even that was only partially executed. I bring to the court’s notice that Bayram Mammadov has not committed any offence. He simply wrote a slogan on a statue of Heydar Aliyev as a sign of protest against the arbitrariness and illegal acts taking place in the country, and was subjected to the most severe torture because of this. I also want to call your attention to the accomplishment of Themis, who is the symbol of justice. Themis was the mother of prisoner of conscience Prometheus. When Prometheus helped people and was chained, Themis asked him to go apologise to Zeus. She repeatedly asked him, but Prometheus did not apologise. As a result, Zeus was forced to free Prometheus. Had Bayram Mammadov apologised, we would not have appeared before you; this trial would have not taken place; and there would have been no charges. The authorities repeatedly demanded that he apologise, promising to release him if he did. We request that you acquit Bayram Mammadov, because the charges [against him] have not been proven. Please release the prisoner of conscience.”
Final speech of the defendant:
Next, Bayram Mammadov gave his final speech.
“Judge Valiyev, you told me that you would try me not for my beliefs, but solely for the offence of which I stand accused. But like everyone here, you also know very well that I have been arrested for my beliefs. I had a chance to avoid this. From now on, I will refer to the police as people, in inverted commas. During the first days of my detention, these “people” persistently asked me [to do] one thing: Go and put flowers at the foot of the statue, bow down before it, and appear on AZTV. This is not the first time that this kind of thing has happened to the opposition elite. This exactly reflects James Bond’s words: “Repentance, asking for forgiveness and apologizing is a more important element of life than getting punished in every moment of power.” Of course, it is more honourable to be in prison rather than at liberty under such conditions. Yes, I say in prison, but I do not feel like a prisoner. I am a zealous freedom lover. I have always been a free man and will always remain one. The suggestions are now followed by torture. The “people” have coined a fake notion of a homeland for themselves, and this concept is associated with Heydar Aliyev and the successor of his successful policy, Ilham Aliyev. If you love and pledge allegiance to them, you are a patriot. If you oppose them and fight against them, you are betraying the homeland; you are a traitor. It later comes to light on the regime’s TV channels that you have ties to some western organisations. And afterwards, those patriotic journalists investigate and reveal that those western organisations are funded by some Armenian lobby. If the notion of homeland is limited to Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Heydar Aliyev Airport, Heydar Aliyev Palace, Heydar Aliyev Sports Complex, Heydar Aliyev School, Heydar Aliyev Centre, Heydar Aliyev Museum, the endless Heydar Aliyev Avenue, the Heydar Aliyev streets in every city and region, the network of Heydar Aliyev parks, and Heydar Aliyev’s statues in those parks, then I am betraying my homeland and I am proud of doing so…”
At this point, the presiding judge said, “Enough of slogans. Speak on the charges.”
Bayram Mammadov continued his speech. “You may charge me with treason and try me on that charge as well. I would be glad of that. How could they know that the real patriots are those who try to defend the people from those in power?! After that, those people look for other ways of turning you away from your beliefs. For example, they give promises that sound pleasant, something along the lines of, “You are a highly-educated guy and could have a good pay check, a good job and a good life.” It is perhaps unnecessary to say here what my response was. It resembled the response given by prominent Russian philosopher Peter Kropotkin in a similar situation. Kropotkin was of aristocratic descent and had good chances of ascending to senior positions in the Tsar’s palace. But when offered a job, he refused it. Later, he explained the reasons for his refusal in his novel: “If everything around me consisted of misery and struggle for a piece of bread …”
The presiding judge once again interrupted Bayram Mammadov, arguing that what he was saying constituted slogans rather than a final speech. This remark was met by an objection from Mammadov’s lawyer, who noted that Bayram Mammadov was indeed making his final speech. The judge once again requested that Mammadov spoke on the charges, and did not quote anyone.
Bayram Mammadov resumed his speech. “They failed to come up with better words to put at the entrance to Mehdiabad (ed: settlement in Azerbaijan), and wrote “Heydar Aliyev: I have big respect for Mehdiabad residents”.
He continued: “A Russian thinker once said: If the things that secure for me a life in a world of high emotions have been stolen from the tables of the people, who like a wheat-growing mother, cannot give enough bread to their children, what right do I have for such a great joy? I think exactly like him. Only decent people do not use their education to rob others or to collect bribes from people. Speaking of bribes, I do not know whether there is a bribe-taker in this room or not. But if there is, I want to dedicate Rasul Rza’s two lines to them: How dare you call yourself a man, if you sustain your wife with bribe money.”
“Everything that has happened so far has proved the things I already knew from a practical perspective. The police are the enemy of the people. The ultimate aim of the police is not to fight crime and criminals, but to maintain power for as long as possible. The police are indeed a powerful structure within the government, and the government uses this power exclusively to oppress the people and to put down any potential dissent. I do not know about Giyas Ibrahimov, but the reaction of the police officers when encountering me was: “Are you the one who wrote on my grandfather’s statue?” Since then I have been wondering what kind of a life their grandmothers lived that they still do not know who their grandfathers are.
I already said it and will repeat it again that imprisonment is nothing. The important thing is that we have destroyed the idol. Heydar Aliyev is not an idol – you can touch him, and we have destroyed this idol. Two youths coming from among the people…”
At this point, the judge interrupted him and announced a break for deliberation.
Although the jury was leaving for the deliberation room, Bayram Mammadov continued. “As the famous saying goes, “My beloved, I would risk my life for you.” Our beloved one is our beliefs. We have risked jail for them. After the regime collapses, many people will do many things to those statues. But nothing will produce the first effect, because we have undertaken this venture while the regime is still in power. From now on, May 10 will be remembered not for Heydar Aliyev’s birthday and flower holiday, but for the graffiti written on Heydar Aliyev’s statue and Slave Holiday. At least, when AZTV conducts propaganda in favour of the regime, people will remember Giyas and me. I do not regret anything. If I had one more chance, I would do it again.
There was a famous Belgian revolution, with one person whose final speech I consider magnificent. There was a guy called Ricardo Fores, who was repeatedly arrested and finally sentenced to 21 years in jail. They laid down only one condition: Apologise to the state, appeal for pardon, and we will release you. Fores refused the offer, and in his letter to his friends he very beautifully explains the reasons why he did so. He wrote, ‘I’d rather die than appeal for pardon, because if I die some people will write that one wishful thinker is sleeping here, while my enemies will write that one idiot is sleeping here, but no one will ever be able to write that a coward betrayer of his own ideals is sleeping here.’ I also do not want to be remembered as a person apologising and asking for pardon in front of the judge – but the judge could not bear to hear my last words and left.”
At that moment, Bayram Mammadov asked for water. As his hands were cuffed, one of the soldiers extended a bottle towards him through the gap between the glass partitions, and Bayram Mammadov brought his lips closer to the gap and drank the water.
“I am calling on all young people from here. Fight for the truth, justice and equality,” said Mammadov.
After a 25-minute deliberation, the court announced the verdict. Bayram Mammadov was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. His youth and the fact that he is a first-time offender were considered as mitigating factors, and no aggravating factors were identified.