The blogger Emin Milli was released today by a Baku appeal court, one day after his friend and fellow blogger, Adnan Hajizade, was freed. The court ruled that the remaining 14 months of his 30-month jail sentence were “suspended.”
Milli and Hajizade were arrested on a trumped charge of hooliganism in July 2009 because a satirical video that had been posted online. They were sentenced in November 2009 to 30 and 24 months in prison respectively.
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev, who has been detained since April 2007. The European Court of Human Rights ruled last April that he was being held illegally and should be freed at once.
Blogger released on parole after 16 months in jail
Reporters Without Borders is relieved and delighted to learn that a Baku appeal court has just ordered the conditional release of Adnan Hajizade, a blogger who has spent the past 16 months in prison after being arrested on a trumped-up charge of hooliganism in July 2009 and getting a 24-month sentence.
The press freedom organization reiterates its call for the release of fellow blogger Emin Milli, who was given a 30-month jail sentence in the same case, and newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev, who has been in prison since April 2007.
“Adnan Hajizade is free and this is very good news,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It follows an exemplary campaign by his family, civil society and bloggers in Azerbaijan and other countries and pressure from the international community.”
The press freedom organisation added: “We nonetheless regret that his conviction has not been quashed as we have always insisted that he was arrested for exercising the right to free expression and was jailed on grotesque charges after a sham trial. The vigilance must not let up and the campaigning must continue in order to protect him from any kind of harassment or intimidation by the authorities and to obtain the release of Milli and Fatullayev.”
As he left the court building, Hajizade said he would resume his blogging and had no plans to leave Azerbaijan. “I am not guilty and will demand full rehabilitation,” he said. “Freedom is my right. I will also demand the release of my friend Emin Milli. There are no grounds for him to be in prison.”
Reporters Without Borders was one of nine human rights organizations that carried out a joint fact-finding visit to Baku from 7 to 9 September to examine the situation of free expression. One of the recommendations of the report issued after the visit was for the immediate and unconditional release of Hajizade, Milli and Fatullayev.
Both the European Parliament and U.S. President Barack Obama had urged the Azerbaijani authorities to free the two bloggers and Fatullayev. And a ruling issued by the European Court of Human Rights on 22 April called for Fatullayev’s release on the grounds that the charges on which he was convicted were politically motivated.
Last week Azerbaijan’s supreme court partially complied with the European Court’s ruling by quashing his conviction on charges of terrorism and inciting hatred, but upheld his conviction on charges of tax fraud and possession of heroin (http://en.rsf.org/azerbaidjan-in-latest-humiliation-newspaper-05-11-2010,38761.html).
Hajizade and Milli were arrested in Baku on 8 July 2009 after going to the police to report the fact that they had just been assaulted by two men in a restaurant. Hajizade is a video-blogger and member of the non-political “OL! Youth Movement.” Milli is one of the founders of a movement called “The Alumni Network.”
They were sentenced on 11 November 2009 to 30 and 24 months in prison respectively on a charge of hooliganism. It was clear that the charge was politically motivated and that they were in fact being persecuted for criticising the authorities and, in particular, for circulating a video that made fun of corrupt politicians.
Adnan Hajizade with friends and family. 18th Nov. 2010