Youth Activist Fuad Ahmadli’s Case Proceeds to Trial

Summary: 2nd hearing

> Defendant Fuad Ahmadli’s lawyer lodged written motions to discontinue the criminal proceedings against his client and to change the measure of pre-trial detention selected against him. The judge rejected the motions;

> Lawyer: In a case where others are brought to disciplinary responsibility, Fuad Ahmadli has faced criminal prosecution;

> Fuad Ahmadli said he had been arrested for political reasons.

On 25 April, Baku Grave Crimes Court chaired by Judge Fikrat Garibov continued the preliminary hearing on the case of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) activist Fuad Ahmadli. The previous preliminary hearing had been postponed due to a belated provision of the indictment bill to the accused.

Fuad Ahmadli’s lawyer Asabali Mustafayev filed several motions at the hearing. In his first motion, the lawyer asked for the criminal case against his client to be dropped. “We believe that bringing charges against Fuad Ahmadli under Articles 302 (violation of the legislation on criminal search activity) and 308 (abuse of official powers) of the Criminal Code is unlawful and baseless. For Fuad Ahmadli’s acts to give rise to responsibility under these Articles someone should have incurred significant damage as a result of those acts or they should have had grave consequences. The case file contains our appellate complaints against the extension of Fuad Ahmadli’s detention term and our motions to replace his detention with house arrest. In all of them, we have shown that the charges are illegal and groundless. Instead of dropping the charges, the investigative agency found three victims six months later, on 28 February 2017. This goes to show how poorly the investigation has been conducted because the indictment bill does not specify which rights of those people have been significantly violated or which grave consequences have occurred. Those persons have noted in their statements that they had suffered anxiety and psychological tension after Fuad Ahmadli had given their phone numbers to other people. But, we believe that this cannot count as significant damage or grave consequences.

Besides, the information about those victims has been given to their acquaintances. For example, the information of Aynur Aliyeva, a victim in the case, has been given to a person, with whom she had been friends for years and who had already known her number and home address. What anxiety could the provision of known information have produced? As for the information about Maharram Guliyev, it has been provided to his boss. A person by name Samir, who has also been recognised as a victim in the case, is a sales agent, who sells medicines and himself advertises his phone number everywhere, including on social networks. Considering the fact that this person himself spreads his phone number, what grave consequences could be caused by giving his number to someone? We believe that the conclusion drawn by the investigative agency is absurd, and we see no need to investigate the case. Hence, Fuad Ahmadli cannot be held to account.

Apart from that, the investigative agency assessed Fuad Ahmadli’s acts in question as an operational activity, but it is unlawful to do so, because, in his capacity as an operator, it is Fuad Ahmadli’s duty to provide necessary information to subscribers. The three victims are subscribers of the Nar Mobile operator. Fuad Ahmadli has not communicated information to anyone regarding numbers from mobile operators Bakcell or Azercell, to claim that he has obtained that information secretly. The information [that he has provided] was available to Fuad Ahmadli. Therefore, it cannot be evaluated as an operational activity.

The indictment reads that Fuad Ahmadli has allegedly found the said information by means of equipment designed to collect information secretly. Fuad Ahmadli is an operator and works with whatever equipment has been given to him by the management. The only equipment he works with stores a database of subscribers.

If there really were something wrong with the provision of a phone number by Fuad Ahmadli to someone, this could have given rise to disciplinary responsibility at most and not criminal responsibility. The case

the file contains a statement by Shahin Afandiyev, one of the managers of Fuad Ahmadli’s employer Azerphone LLC, where he admits that ‘a similar case had happened in the company before, we prevent such cases and take a disciplinary action against the responsible employee’. Why do they take disciplinary actions against others, but launch criminal proceedings against Fuad Ahmadli? This means that the purpose is different here.

To charge Fuad Ahmadli with abuse of official powers is utterly absurd because he was not an official. Fuad Ahmadli was an ordinary employee, an operator, who provided services to subscribers. His job was to answer subscribers’ questions.

There has been an 8-month-long investigation. The investigative agency formed a large investigation team, which included more than 10 investigators from the State Security Service and the Prosecutor General’s Office. It averages 2-3 investigators per each victim and witness. Yet, this is what they have been able to write during the 8 months. I do not believe in the course of 3-4 hearings the court will be able to find what the investigative agency has failed to find within 8 months. For that reason, I ask that the criminal case be terminated,” the lawyer said.

The lawyer’s second motion sought to replace Fuad Ahmadli’s pre-trial detention. “Unless our first motion is granted, we are asking for the pre-trial detention measure to be changed. Fuad Ahmadli’s detention on remand for 8 months during the investigation period was justified by the fact that the investigation was ongoing and Ahmadli might influence witnesses and victims. The investigation has now been completed. Fuad Ahmadli does not even know the victims. How can he influence them? Therefore, we believe that there are no grounds to not change the pre-trial detention measure,” the lawyer noted.

Fuad Ahmadli defended the motion and said he wanted to make additions. He noted that he had been arrested for political reasons. “Throughout my life, there has been one national and moral issue for me – to see Azerbaijan as an independent state, a state of justice. My creed-mates and our leader, who is also here (APFP chairman Ali Karimli), know this…,” Ahmadli said. At that point, presiding judge Fikrat Garibov interrupted him and said, ‘We are not discussing your socio-political activities here. You are not in an interview with a newspaper, magazine or television channel. Speak on the merits’.

Fuad Ahmadli continued his speech. “In Azerphone LLC that I am working for, there is a monitoring group which evaluates employees’ actions. According to the internal regulations, this group identifies violations of the law in disregard of service standards and reports to the management. We were accordingly graded and paid on a monthly basis. As noted in Shahin Afandiyev’s statement, if the information was provided to other people due to inexperience or other reason, this was marked with a ‘0’ grade. They do not open a criminal case because of this. We have undersigned the internal regulations in our employment contract. There is a provision regarding the principle of confidentiality, which says that transferring the company’s internal information or any information about subscribers to third parties, social networks or other people are contrary to the company’s internal regulations, and every citizen shall bear responsibility for doing so. Non-compliance with this rule is punishable by reprimand, deductions from salary, and at worst dismissal. It is the eighth month that I have been held in detention without being provided with any reasons or proofs. I am going to show the fact that proves my arrest is politically-motivated. The decision ordering my pre-trial detention was appealed. Before the appeal was even considered and in the absence of any court decision, an investigator by name Mehdi said ‘I will come to the detention centre to take your statement after the hearing’. This means that the investigator was sure that the court of appeal was not going to release me, I would be sent to the detention centre where I was held, and he would come there to take the statement.

I’d like to additionally note that we were not actually in a position to check, confirm or verify the location-related details of the information within our competence in the company where I worked,” Ahmadli said.

The public prosecutor said the motion was groundless and requested that it be denied.

After a 15-minute deliberation, the court announced that the motions were not granted.

The case proceeded to the stage of the trial, and the next hearing was set for 2 May, 10.30 am.

Background: Fuad Ahmadli was detained on 18 August 2016. The State Security Service and the Prosecutor General’s Office issued a joint statement, which read that Fuad Ahmadli channelled subscribers’ personal information to third parties while working for the Azerphone LLC. According to the statement, during the search of Fuad Ahmadli’s apartment, books and CDs containing speeches of Fetullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric supportive of terrorism, were found. Fuad Ahmadli was charged under Articles 302.1 (violation of the legislation on operational-search activity) and 308.1 (abuse of official powers) of the Criminal Code. However, on 6 March 2017, his charges were aggravated by being reclassified under the second paragraphs of the same Articles.

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