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Beaten youth activists to stand trial for hooliganism

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As I reported in my previous post, two prominent civil society activists and leading figures of youth movement in Azerbaijan – Emin Milli (Abdullayev) and Adnan Hajizada have been attacked while dining at a downtown restaurant and got severely beaten. Moreover, when they tried to complain to police, they were detained as suspects in ‘hooliganism’ case. The actual perpetrators, in contrast, were released and according to witnesses, they left the police station from the back door.

Yesterday, on 9 July, representatives of civil society and youth groups, as well as political parties have held a ‘protest forum’ to both inform the society about the incident and coordinate activities aimed at release of Emin and Adnan. While attending it, I found it characterized with ‘overcrowded hall, furious speakers, plenty of civil society and party leaders, foreign press [and] no local TVs’. Indeed, opened with an angry tirade by forum chair and veteran human rights activist Leyla Yunus, the ‘protest forum’ went through fierce discussions and bitter accusation of all responsible for this incident.

Participants decided to sign an open appeal to the President of Azerbaijan to help release Emin and Adnan, while Leyla Yunus herself sent an open letter to the Minister of Internal Affairs (temporary link).

The German ambassador talked about irony of the incident –on 10 July, the German Human Rights Commissioner was due to visit Azerbaijan and it was scheduled that Emin Milli would be his interpreter. However, as the forum managed to learn from informed sources, on 10 July, Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada were to stand trial for ‘hooliganism’ charges at Sabayel District Court of Baku.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has started to tell their own version. Ministry spokesman Sadig Gyozalov has disclosed the names of the ‘sportsmen’ who have "been beaten" by  the activists and acknowledged that they were detained and afterwards released. They are Babek Huseynov (b.1983) and Vusal Mammadov (b.1984), both from Karabakh refugees. Asked why they were released, Gyozalov has answered that if it is needed, they will also be detained. however, 'the case was opened not per persons, but per fact, and the perpetrators were Emin Abdullayev and Adnan Hajizada' cites him local news website.

Moreover, in his response to Radio Azadliq, Gyozalov has claimed that the incident was ordinary hooliganism. ‘It should not be politicized’. And what follows afterwards is an astonishing and extraordinary story:

These 5-6 people were sitting in the restaurant and making noise, thus breaching the rules. Those two people – Huseynov and Mammadov - tried to calm them down, called them to obey the rules. ‘Any other person, including me, who has a conscience, would do the same. This is the root of the conflict. These people [Emin and Adnan] have beaten those people [Huseynov and Mammadov], injured them. This is an act of hooliganism happening on everyday basis'.

1 Comment

Onnik Krikorian | July 10, 2009 8:53 AM

Seems to be the current approach being taken by governments in the South Caucasus:

As youth activists face trial in Azerbaijan on charges of hooliganism despite eye witness accounts that they were instead the victims of assault, concerns are emerging that the way in which young opponents are targeted is becoming the modus operandi for authoritarian regimes in the region.[link removed]