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Azerbaijan: Youth activists and bloggers beaten and detained

Categories: Central Asia & Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Breaking News, Digital Activism, Politics, Youth

On 8 July, Emin Milli [1], one of the founders of a grassroots youth movement the Alumni Network and Adnan Hajizada [2], a video-blogger from the OL! Youth Movement [3] have been severely beaten by unidentified persons while dining with a group of other civil society and youth activists in a restaurant in downtown Baku [4]. After complaining to police about the incident, they were instead detained themselves, up to a possible 48 hours.

According to the words of one witness [5], as conveyed by a local blogger:

onlar 7 nefer olublar. yemek yedikleri yerde iki idmanci icheri girib Emini doymeye baslayib. Adnan Emine komek etmek isteyende onu da vurublar.
Idmancilar Shobede uzr isteyenden sonra onlari buraxiblar. Adnani ise 2 sutka saxlayacaqlarini ve sonra da xuliqanliga gore hebs vereceklerini deyibler. Emin de Adnanla birlikde qalacagini deyib. Onlari muveqqeti tecridxanasiya apariblar.

They were seven people dining. Then two sportsmen entered the restaurant and started to beat Emin Milli. When Adnan tried to help Emin, he was also beaten. The sportsmen were released from the police station after they apologized. However, Adnan was told that he will be detained for two days for hooliganism. Emin stated his intention to remain with Adnan. They were both taken to Temporary Detention Center.

Thus, according to witnesses, both of the perpetrators had been detained, but were later released. Adnan and Emin then became the main suspects and denied the right to meet with their lawyer. They were transferred to a detention center handcuffed where they can be kept for up to 48 hours.

Emin has several injuries, as well as a cut on his leg, while Adnan's nose is broken, and they haven't received sufficient medical care.

A witness talking about the incident. For better viewing of the subtitles, visit video's original Youtube page [6].

Update: Today, on 9 July 2009, various representatives and activists of civil society, youth movements and political parties have held a ‘protest forum’ in defense of detained youth activists [7]. The protest forum was characterized with “overcrowded hall, furious speakers, plenty of civil society and party leaders, foreign press [and] no local TVs” [8].  The German Ambassador to Azerbaijan has talked about one irony that tomorrow Emin Milli, who is also a freelancing interpreter were scheduled to interprete for visiting German Human Rights Commissioner [9]. Instead, tomorrow Emin and Adnan are going to stand trial for hooliganism [10]. As Bart Woord from IFLY tweeted [11] a previous similar hooliganism charge against a journalist in Azerbaijan resulted in 2.5 years of prison term.