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Azerbaijan: Detained video bloggers go on trial

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Emin Milli arriving at court earlier today in handcuffs, Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan © RFE/RL

Despite significant international outcry from leading human rights and freedom of expression advocates, detained video bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli today went on trial in Baku. Now facing an additional charge of assault, the two youth activists face up to 5 years in prison if convicted.

Hajizade and Milli were attacked in downtown Baku at the beginning of July, but when the two activists reported the incident to the police they were instead arrested and charged with attacking their assailants.

The arrests came soon after Hajizade's OL! youth movement and Milli's AN Network posted a video mocking the authorities for importing donkeys and introducing legislation intended to restrict the activities of civil society in the oil-rich country.

But, if the Azerbaijani government hoped that the action against the two activists would silence their voices, it instead appears to have achieved the opposite.

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No strangers to the use of new media, Hajizade and Milli's supporters used Twitter to send out updates, albeit from outside the courtroom. Previous pre-trial sessions had been held behind closed doors.

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Adnan Hajizade leaving court earlier today in handcuffs, Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan © RFE/RL

Writing on Facebook, Hajizade's girlfriend reacted to today's trial by saying it felt as though her “heart will stop.” Nevertheless, despite concerns over Hajizade and Milli's fate, both seemed confident and in good spirits as they were escorted from the courtroom to the sound of defiant chants from those waiting outside.

Another supporter of the two detained activists summarized the trial, adjourned until 16 September, on the popular social networking site.

I was just re-listening to the first half of the info the reporter from Azadliq radiosu (Radio Freedom) was giving during the proceedings. As far as I understood: He said that first there was a plea to have a closed hearing on the grounds that Adnan and Emin are politically involved and therefore the trial is a matter of social security. Emin then interjected that he is NOT involved in politics; said that the “victims'” lawyer was misinforming the judge – he is not a member of any political party or organization. He said that such accusations are only given in authoritarian regimes. The plea was rejected. Also the defense asked that Adnan and Emin's pre-trial detention be suspended on the condition that they do not leave Baku (also rejected).

The AN Network later posted a series of video reports on YouTube. Despite concerns, friends of the two men appear to be in good spirits, perhaps buoyed by support from individuals and organizations worldwide.

Elsewhere, following a similar action in Washington D.C., another protest was held in their support outside the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in London.

9 comments

  • RFE/RL’s Azeri service now has video from today’s trial:

    http://www.azadliq.org/video/3037.html

    It’s not yet available on YouTube and unfortunately can’t be embedded from their site.

  • The court rejected all the motions of the defence, including the on suspencion of detention. The main court trial will be held on September 16th.

    At the video from in front of the court Erkin was telling funny stories of today’s trial, I’ll write them in my blog soon.

  • It’s been good to see international media pick up on the story of their arrest. Sad to hear they will be kept in detention even longer. Hoping the best for Adnan and Emin.

  • Solana, thanks for the embed code for the RFE/RL video. You’re a star… :-)

    And I’m obviously multi-tasking with too many windows open on dual monitors because I didn’t see the embed code at the end at first. :-(

  • Thoughts on the Road has also posted an entry commenting on the trial. If there are more on other blogs I’ll write another entry including this one as well as any others to materialize.

    So Azerbaijan begins its latest show trial today, as Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade face judgment for their crime of “hooliganism.” It is tragic for the two young men, of course, but it is even more tragic for Azerbaijan as a whole, that its rulers can act contrary to common decency and even common sense with such impunity.

    […]

    An Azerbaijani friend of mine wrote me today about the situation in his country. These are dark and dangerous times for people who are vocal in their support for democracy, he said. For people who just remain quiet, however, it is not so dangerous.

    So – how long will the people of Azerbaijan remain quiescent? Until the oil runs out?

    http://poliscimedia.blogspot.com/2009/09/trial-of-bloggers-begins.html

  • […] Voices article Azerbaijan: Detained Bloggers go on Trial details the proceedings of the court hearing for Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade which took place on […]

  • […] days after Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli were arrested and following the start of their trial last week, friends and supporters of the detained video blogger youth activists reflect on the case. Their […]

  • […] Thoughts on the Road reports that there is at least some good news for a change. Even if the trial of video bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli is set to continue next week, Parviz Azimov, a student expelled from his university earlier this […]

  • […] today’s trial I had a conversation with one of the representatives of “comforted” Azerbaijani youth. I told […]

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