Hazijada’s court hearing expected to be after Sept. 8

By Dan Petty
Collegian Reporter

A court hearing in Azerbaijan for detained University of Richmond alumnus Adnan Hajizada is expected to begin sometime after Sept. 8, his father said, and a video message with a statement apparently from Hajizada also confirmed.

Hikmet Hajizada, Adnan’s father, said that his family’s requests to meet with him in prison had been repeatedly denied, but that the family was still bringing him food.

“We don’t know how well he is fed,” Hikmet Hajizada said in a telephone conversation, speaking through a translator. “He is not being tortured and he has not complained of poor treatment.”

The girlfriend of Adnan Hajizada, Parvana Persiani, wrote in an e-mail message that he had passed the message seen in the video through his lawyer. His friends responded by making the video, she said.

Because authorities are not actively investigating the case, Persiani said, it’s not immediately clear whether the trial will begin Sept. 8, a date that will be two months after he and fellow Azerbaijani blogger Emin Milli were detained.

Hajizada, 26, and Milli, 30, have been in prison since July 8, when they said they were attacked by two men as they spoke critically about the government and dined at an outdoor restaurant in Baku, the capitol of Azerbaijan.

When the scuffle ended, court documents say, both reported the incident to local police, who instead arrested them and levied charges of hooliganism, a crime that carries one to five years in prison. A court earlier upheld a decision to keep the bloggers in prison for two months before the start of their trial.

Their alleged attackers — Babek Huseynov and Vusal Mammadov — have countered in a statement that Hajizada and Milli attacked them and started the fight, saying they were “beating us ruthlessly.”

In the interview, his father charged that his son — a 2005 Richmond graduate — had been arrested because of “his activities in the community” and his attempts to exercise “freedom of expression.” That’s a claim that friends, international human rights groups and others agree on.

Press freedom in Azerbaijan exists and is guaranteed by Azerbaijani law, his father said.

“You can say what you like, but you can be prosecuted for it,” he said. “It depends entirely on who is in power, and you are not protected from this prosecution. The international press covers this, but little.”

A U.N. human rights panel in Geneva recently criticized the limits on freedom of speech in Azerbaijan after the closure of independent newspapers in the country and the bloggers’ arrest, The Associated Press is reporting.

The panel expressed that it was “concerned at the extensive limits to the right to freedom of expression of the media” and charged that journalists were often harassed, fearful of lawsuits for alleged libel and subjected to charges of hooliganism, mentioning Hajizada and Milli specifically.

In a report published Friday, panel officials asked the government to lift restrictions on the media and protect journalists and bloggers from the kinds of attacks alleged by Hajizada and Milli.

Hajizada’s father said he had repeatedly warned him about his activism with the OL! Youth Movement and was worried it would result in arrests. His son’s efforts include producing videos and blogging, messages that are distributed through social networking Web sites, including Facebook and Twitter.

Asked whether he expected the trial to be expedited, Hikmet Hajizada acknowledged it was widely expected, but that he wasn’t clear about why they two were in prison.

“There is no investigation,” he said. “They are just sitting in prison and staring at the ceiling — just like in Russia.”

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