A district court in the western city of Ganja yesterday sentenced the blogger Bakhtiyar Hajiyev to two years in prison on a charge of evading military service. Hajiyev reacted calmly to the verdict, describing it as “unjust and politically motivated.” His brother said he would appeal.
Netizen Bakhtiyar Hajiyev refused bail
29 April 2011
A second hearing in netizen Bahthiyar Hajiyev’s trial before a Nizami district court in the city of Ganja was held yesterday. Facing a charge of desertion (under article 321.1 of the penal code) brought against him in January, he was arrested on 4 March after calling on Facebook for demonstrations against the government. He faces two years behind bars if convicted.
A graduate of Harvard and a former opposition candidate, Hajiyev has complained of being a victim of a politically-motivated trial linked to his online activities. In November 2010, he posted videos on social networks in which he condemned the results of legislative elections.
During yesterday’s hearing, Hajiyev was allowed to take a seat next to his lawyers. Judge Emin Akhundov permitted a small amount of video footage to be taken but otherwise banned all forms of recording during the session. Hajiyev’s request for bail was turned down. A request for all charges to be dropped was not even examined by the court.
Hajiyev, whose trial began on 19 April, complained of being the victim of repeated violence while held in prison and of being threatened with rape. The judge however refused to call witnesses over the conditions of his detention.
His pre-trial detention has been extended twice. His lawyers have appealed against these decisions to the European Court of Human Rights.
Reporters Without Borders urges the Azerbaijani authorities to release Hajiyev immediately and to drop the charges against him. The organization calls on the government to respect the international conventions that it has ratified by respecting freedom of expression.