“The victims” showed up

It is a pleasing fact that they read the newspapers and even listen to the clever pieces of advice

Tuesday, 21.07.2009

R. Mirkadirov

The Court of Appeal left unchanged the first instance court’s decision on the two-month detention of the youth activists Adnan Hajizada and Emin Abdullayev (Milli).

Their lawyers Isakhan Ashuriv and Elton Guliyev stated they were going to appeal to the European Court.

In the meantime the civic society representatives condemned the decision of the Court of Appeal. Thus, according to Leyla Yunus, the head of the Institute of Peace and Democracy, such verdict demonstrates that official Baku fully ignores the commitments it has undertaken when entering the Council of Europe, and adherence to democracy and integration to Europe it declares. "Representatives of the international human rights organizations who I have informed being in Germany are shocked with this decision,” L. Yunus stated.

Arzu Abdullayeva, Head of the National Committee of Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly, said she considers the situation in the court as the “tortures” of the detainees. “During today’s (yesterday – editor) hearing Adnan hajizada has repeatedly addressed the judge on absence of any medical assistance provided so far. If to consider that his nose was broken more than 10 days ago, then what is happening now is a real torture," A. Abdullayeva said.

In the meantime, international organizations continue responding to the arrest of youth bloggers. Article 19 (Organization) on Freedom of Expression has called on the government of Azerbaijan to immediately withdraw politically-driven accusations against internet-bloggers E Milli and A Hajizada (“Turan” agency). Article 19 regards the arrest of the youth activists on the basis of farfetched accusations as yet another attempt to make independent and opposition press keep silent.

"It is unacceptable that these two men, who were subjected to an unprovoked attack, should now face criminal charges,” said Agnes Callamard, Article 19 Executive Director. “If the authorities are persecuting the victims, rather than the perpetrators, then this tells about the political motivations of the case,” she added.

"The Government of Azerbaijan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and Article 19 calls on the authorities to respect its commitments under international law. We also request the authorities to immediately release Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada, and to thoroughly investigate and prosecute those responsible for assaulting them,” the statement says.

Human Rights organization, Amnesty International, has also expressed their concerns regarding the persecution of the civil society and media activists in Azerbaijan. The organization believes that A Hajizada and E Milli should be immediately released because the accusations against them are groundless, and the investigations are unjust.

It is worth mentioning that this issue was raised during the EU Troika meeting with president Ilham Aliyev. According to Turan agency, Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister of Sweden, mentioned it to the journalists in Baku airport on Monday. "I passed my concerns on the arrest of young activists on to Ilham Aliyev. Earlier, EU and Norway ambassadors submitted a statement to the Azerbaijani authorities expressing their concerns on human rights and freedoms in Azerbaijan,” Bildt said. He, however, did not say anything about Ilham Aliyev’s response to the problem.

David Kramer, former deputy of US state secretary, and currently an official of Marshall Fund, also condemned the arrest of A Hajizada and E Milli.

In his exclusive interview to Turan agency, Kramer said: «I am very concerned about the arrest of these young men beaten by unknown people and also about their detention based on false charge of hooliganism. They are subject to two-month detention while those who attacked them are free, despite of numerous protests of the international community and diplomats. US State Secretary Deputy who is visiting Baku has also expressed his concerns. The youth activists should be released, and the attackers should be arrested.”

What kind of support can be provided by West to the bloggers? Is US and EU reaction sufficiently tough? Kramer, responding to these questions, stated that the international community had expressed its opinion, but the concerns and objections should sound louder. “We should be firm when it comes to freedom of speech, press and Internet,” he stated.

"What is your opinion on the publication in Yeni Musavat newspaper which says about alleged preparation of “orange revolution” in Azerbaijan inspired by US and participation of Adnan and Emin in it?” Kramer’s response was that “these allegations are not serious and everyone understands that the matter is not about the revolution but about the authorities violating human rights.”

What would Kramer advise to US administration on the issue of restoring western radio channel broadcasting and deterioration of the situation with mass media in Azerbaijan? Kramer said that the pressure should be exerted on the Azerbaijan authorities, jus exactly “as I did when I was a member of Bush administration when visiting Baku.”

"Such policy should be continued in order to hold the Azerbaijan authorities from their wish to change the law on NGOs, and also free the imprisoned journalists. The foreign radio channels broadcasting must also be restored. I hope that my successor and other members of US administration will confirm that the human rights issues remain the most important when carrying out dialogues with the government of Azerbaijan. Such dialogues should end with progress and concrete results,” Kramer stated.

An finally, 17 professors of the Richmond University sent a letter to the president of Azerbaijan calling to release A Hajizada, the Richmond University graduate. In this letter, posted on the web on Friday, the professors remind that Adnan Hajizada graduated from the University in 2005. Among those who signed the letter is Vincent Wang, the head of the University Political Science Department. The letter mentions that Adnan’s former professors believe that Adnan can do a lot for the future of his country. "Professors remember Adnan as a capable and respected gentleman and it is hard to believe that he can act as a hooligan,” the letter states.

Ali Hasanov, chief of the department of public affairs of Azerbaijan presidential administration, also stated his opinion on the arrest of A Hajizada and E Milli. “Unfortunately, in Azerbaijan such cases get often politicised and turned into public shows, and all this is being used against Azerbaijan state” (APA). He reminded that the Public Prosecutor office and Ministry of Internal Affairs have already clarified the details on incident and the reasons of the arrest. According to Hasanov, it will be the court who will make further proceedings. “The fact that the events are exaggerated to such extent, their assessment and politicizing when the court decision is not yet announced can be viewed as a wish to exert pressure on the court’s decision. And particularly because of this, I do not wish to give any comments. The court is the next authority that should demonstrate its attitude to this case. We should wait for its decision and only then give any comments.”

Hasanov also stated that he is doubtful regarding the statements of international organizations on freedom of speech and press in Azerbaijan, says Trend agency referring to the website of Yeni Azerbaijan ruling party. “Azerbaijan always considers recommendations of all international organizations where we have memberships. Unfortunately, these statements are very subjective. Some of their judgments look very doubtful to us. However, they continue to issue the statements despite the fact that we inform the organizations about unfair nature of their declarations,” said Ali Hasanov.

According to A Hasanov, Azerbaijan needs freedom of speech and press. “This is the essence of the road to future selected by Azerbaijan. We take the reactions of the international organizations into account but follow our own way,” he stated.

In the meantime, those who had beaten the youth activists have already “showed themselves,” indirectly though, and who, according to the investigation authorities, are the victims. Practically all pro-government information agencies and web resources spread out the appeal of these people to press, alongside with the photo of one of them:

“Dear media!

We are obliged to address to you due to the event occurred on the 8th of July. That day we met at Sahil metro station and while walking reached the Fountain Square, and then entered Lebanese restaurant to dine. Next to us were eating and drinking 7-8 people. Soon we heard them swearing out loudly. Being concerned with this, we reprimanded them but they ignored us. We asked them not to use dirty words because we wanted to rest. Couple of guys told us “mind your own business” and added that we should not teach them how to behave. Then the arguments turned into a fight. We did not to fight but two of the guys attacked us. We were defending ourselves. Two of the guys were particularly violent when beating us. As a result, we received many injuries.

Up to date we are being healed in the hospital. We heard from our acquaintances that there is a campaign against us raised in many publications stating that we were the attackers. We read some of the publications and got confirmed that we have been slandered. We are viewed as perpetrators. We express our protests and feel the police, influenced by these allegations, is working against us.

Therefore we ask you: do not allow to make us guilty, write the truth, help us achieve justice.

Babek Huseynov
Vusal Mamedov
18 July 2009.”

Let me start with the tendency, which is unpleasant for me personally. Some journalists, and mass media as a whole, can have their opinions, likes and dislikes on different events. But if there happens a significant event, then all participants of such event should be given an opportunity to express themselves, and also the facts should be strictly followed. One’s own position can be expressed in form of a comment. Professional ethic requires such an approach.

However, to a big regret, majority of mass media, including Internet, did not provide the comments of those who support the youth activists – moreover, such mass media distorted the facts officially submitted by the investigation authorities. For example, some mass media can’t help repeating that A Hajizada and E Milli, being drunk, initiated the fight. But, dear friend-colleagues, haven’t you noticed that the joint statement of the Public Prosecutor and Ministry of Internal Affairs clearly says, referring to the expertise results, that B Huseynov, V Mamedov and E Abdulayev (Milli) were not having any alcohol that day. The matter is that E Milli does not drink at all.

Let’s go further and try to find some clarity in the statement of the ‘victims’ to mass media. Firstly, why to disgrace our glorious police? If the “police, influenced by these allegations” (various publications on different versions of the case in the restaurant - author), was working against you, then it was you, but not A Hajizada and E Milli, who would be sitting now in airless detention cell.

Secondly, the statement of the ‘victims’ suggests they both are now in the hospital. But according to the official statements of the authorities only one of them needed to be hospitalized.

Thirdly, who, when and where took such a professional photo of the ‘victim’ capturing all necessary angles? Judging from the photos, they were made straight after the incident in Lebanese restaurant. One can clearly see blood stains on the shirt. It’s highly unlikely that the ‘victim’ didn’t have the shirt washed in order to take part in the set up ‘shootings’ of the incident. But if it was done by an expert right after the incident, then why were the photos of E Milli and A Hajizada’s injuries not taken in a similar professional way?

Moreover, there were witnesses who had been waiting near the police station for those involved in the incident that evening. They state that they didn’t see any blood stains on the shirts of the ‘victims’ when the latter were leaving the police department.

And finally, I’ll try to explain why the ‘victims’ showed up on the 12th day after the incident. In Saturday edition of Zerkalo newspaper, issued on the 18th of July, i.e. the issue date of the statement of the ‘victims’, I wrote: “Law-abiding and respectable citizens should not hide from press, if they are not secret agents of course. According to the investigation authorities, these citizens have something to show – meaning the injuries allegedly received by ‘hooligans’ E Milli and A Hajizada. Because during the court hearing the results of the expertise can reveal that health of both V Mamedov and B Huseynov is seriously damaged, and “the ill-wishers” inside and outside the country can jeopardize fair and just character of this document.”

To be honest, it is a pleasing fact that the publications are being read and clever advice is being listened to. I wish it was always like that…

To see original article in russian click here

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