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Summary: Hearings #27 and #28
On 17 and 19 October 2016 Baku Grave Crimes Court chaired by Judge Alovsat Abbasov continued the hearing on the criminal case of Muslim Union Movement’s Chairman Taleh Bagirzade and other members of the Muslim Union Movement, charged under 21 articles of the Criminal Code including homicide, terrorism and incitement.
The APFP Deputy Chairman Fuad Gahramanli who is not a member of the Movement but yet accused of promoting their cause 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 respectively.
On 26 November 2015 an armed incident occurred between a group of believers and policemen in Nardaran settlement of Baku, 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 in relation to the incident by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan Republic.
Fuad Gahramanli, who was not present during the incident, was arrested on 8 December, 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.
Nadir Gadirov, who has been convicted and jailed under Article 228.1 (illegal purchase, transfer, selling, storage, transportation or carrying of a fire-arm, its accessories, ammunition (except for a smooth-bore hunting weapon and its ammunition)) of the Criminal Code, testified at the hearing as a witness. “I have not been subjected to torture, but I signed whatever document they told me to sign, because I am too old to suffer a beating. At the end, they told me to frame Taleh, but I refused to do so. I told them that I would not do that even if they sentenced me to 20 years. My mother has suffered a mental disorder since I was arrested. I will never forgive it. I do not confirm the statements that I provided during the investigation,” the witness said.
Nardaran resident Aliaga Gasimov, who is also charged under Article 228.1 (illegal purchase, transfer, selling, storage, transportation or carrying of a fire-arm, its accessories, ammunition (except for a smooth-bore hunting weapon and its ammunition)) of the Criminal Code, took the stand next. “I was forced to sign the statement during the investigation. I neither had a hunting gun nor bullets. They have also arrested my son-in-law and sentenced him to 10 years in jail. They have deprived so many families of their household heads. Why are they tormenting innocent Muslims? God is our witness that we have never had a claim to power. When I left home, my kids cried. I will never forgive them for it. I do not confirm my investigation statement,” Aliaga Gasimov said.
Raji Babayev, who is also behind bars being charged under Article 228.1 (illegal purchase, transfer, selling, storage, transportation or carrying of a fire-arm, its accessories, ammunition (except for a smooth-bore hunting weapon and its ammunition)) of the Criminal Code, was questioned as a witness. “I do not confirm my statement for the investigation. They coerced me to sign the statement. They planted a grenade into my bed mattress, and then retrieved it. They tortured me by saying ‘why do you perform Namaz (Muslim prayer) and why are you a resident of Nardaran’,” the witness said.
Nardaran resident, who is in detention and is prosecuted under Article 228.1 (illegal purchase, transfer, selling, storage, transportation or carrying of a fire-arm, its accessories, ammunition (except for a smooth-bore hunting weapon and its ammunition)) of the Criminal Code, testified as a witness. “They planted a grenade under the mattress of my 13-year old child and then pretentiously cautioned each other not to touch it as it might explode. How dishonourable people they are. They also planted a handful of bullets under the mattress of my little daughter. They forced me to sign the statements that they wanted,” Agasalim Jabrayilov said.
Nardaran resident Zahid Zakiyev, who was arrested after the Nardaran events and is charged under Articles 228.1 (illegal purchase, transfer, selling, storage, transportation or carrying of a fire-arm, its accessories, ammunition (except for a smooth-bore hunting weapon and its ammunition)) and 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) of the Criminal Code, took the witness stand. He said that he had been tortured during the investigation. “I can show you my toes, if you will. They pulled my toenails out with tongs. Karim Alimardanov tortured me. But the person, who pulled out my toenails, was wearing a mask. I did not see his face. On 26 November 2015, I heard gunshots in Nardaran and came to the front of that house. Almost 150 police officers had come to Nardaran. They dragged a hijab-wearing woman by the hand and threw her out. Female voices could be heard. They threatened to shoot at us if we went near. They had arrived for the operation in trucks bearing the words Elite Furniture. They had been driving so recklessly that they had hit a woman and thrown her to roadside,” the witness said.
Rasim Binyatov, who has been sentenced to 2.5 years in jail under Article 228.1 (illegal purchase, transfer, selling, storage, transportation or carrying of a fire-arm, its accessories, ammunition (except for a smooth-bore hunting weapon and its ammunition)) of the Criminal Code and who is a cousin of brothers Rafael and Farail Binyatov killed during the Nardaran operation of 26 November 2015, gave evidence as a witness. He also said that he had provided his preliminary investigation statement under duress. “On the day of the incident, I bought bread and was going home when I saw policemen entering Abulfaz Bunyatov’s house. They were shooting bullets. They threw something, it exploded, and a smoke rose. They came in two furniture trucks. They were SWAT. The police officers tortured all of those detained in the furniture truck. They wanted to break Taleh Bagirzade’s back there. My cousin Farail Binyatov was beaten to death by the policemen. They had hit Farail in the head and his head was split open; blood was flooding down his face. They captured us and took us to the Main Organised Crime Department. The indictment reads that they had allegedly found a grenade and a knife in my house, but there was nothing [of the sort] in my house,” the witness noted.
Agamir Ibrahimov, a search detective for the criminal investigation division of Sabunchu District Police Department, was questioned as a witness. “On 5 November 2015, a group of people had gathered in front of Sabunchu District Police Department. They were throwing rocks and pieces of iron at policemen. Several police officers were wounded. We called the riot police for help as there was fewer staff in the department at the time,” the witness stressed.
After that, Yusif Gurbanov, a field inspector for the 14th police station of Sabunchu District Police Department, testified as a witness. He said that he saw Elchin Gasimov leave the mosque and go home when patrolling the area on 5 November 2015 and Elchin Gasimov swore at him and the government. According to Gurbanov, he invited Elchin Gasimov to calm down but the latter ignored him, and after that he detained Elchin Gasimov and took him to the department.
Lawyer Yalchin Imanov filed motions with the court to verify the attesting witnesses’ criminal records and to clarify whether an ambulance had been called on the day of the police operation in Nardaran, by sending inquiries to relevant agencies. “We have serious reasons to believe that the persons mentioned in the case file as witness are in fact informal collaborators of the Main Organised Crime Department. One of these reasons is that the police officers took the attesting witnesses to the incident scene from Baku. Could not they find witnesses on the way or in Nardaran? I also want to note that, on September 1, I sent an inquiry to the Emergency and Urgent Medical Aid Station of the Ministry of Health to determine whether an ambulance was called to Nardaran on November 26. I have not received a response to my inquiry to this day. We therefore want the court to send an inquiry,” the lawyer said.
The presiding judge denied the first motion, arguing that verifying the criminal records of the attesting witnesses would be an act of invasion of privacy. As for the motion to send an inquiry to the Emergency and Urgent Medical Aid Station of the Ministry of Health, it remained undecided.
Lawyer Yalchin Imanov went on to file another motion. “The photo I am holding in my hand shows that Jahad Babakishizade, Shamil Abdulaliyev and Bahruz Asgarov, who were wounded during the Nardaran operation and who are now defendants, were taken to the hospital by the residents of the settlement. The defendants have also stated so in their testimonies. They said that, as the operation was over, the police went away leaving the wounded behind. Eventually, Nardaran residents took them at first to the medical station in the settlement and then to the hospital #3 in Sabunchu. But the police officers, who testified in court, stated that the wounded were taken to the hospital by the ambulances called to the incident scene by the leadership of the operation team. This photo proves that the wounded were taken to the hospital by villagers,” Imanov said. The lawyer asked the court to add the photo to the case materials and examine it during the phase of document examination. The motion was granted and the photo was added to the case materials.
After that, lawyer Fariz Namazli filed a motion to terminate the victim statuses of the police officers recognised as victims in the case. The motion was dismissed. The presiding judge said the investigating authority had come to the conclusion that the persons recognised as victims have suffered damage. “Not all of the evidence has been studied yet. This issue cannot be a subject of discussion at this point. If a decision is made on this matter, it would mean the court has [prematurely] expressed opinion on certain issues,” the judge said.
The next court hearing was set for October 21, 10.30am.