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Azerbaijan: Activist blogger trial resumes, delays persist (updated)

hands_off1Although not its official birthday, Global Voices Online made its first ever post on threats made against Iranian dissident blogger Hossein Derakhshan, aka Hoder five years ago today. And in the same week that Threatened Voices, an online project to map bloggers under attack worldwide was launched, Derakhshan marked the first anniversary of his incarceration in prison.

Today is also notable for another event — the continuing trial of detained video blogging youth activists Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli in Baku, Azerbaijan. The last court hearing was adjourned because witnesses did not turn up. Media Helping Media comments on the latest developments in what many consider to be a politically motivated case to silence dissent in the country.

The trial of Adnan Hajizade and Emin Abdullayev (also known as Milli) was adjourned ten days ago after a brief appearance by the two on hooliganism and violence charges.


Those campaigning for the release of the two men suspect that there may be political reasons behind the delays.

Media freedom groups have been protesting about the arrests and detention and claim it is part of an effort to limit freedom of expression.

Two days ago, Emotions on Air, Mind Mute, a newly launched English-language Azeri blog, reflected on the the case against the two young activists.

I started to intensely think about Emin and Adnan. I came to be proud of their parents,teachers and elders. I became curious about books they have read. I got jealous of friends they have, as they were lucky to know these great men personally.

Now it hurts very much that they are in prison. Their great time of lives has been stolen. Their summer has been taken away. Their parents spend sleepless nights. They have been deprived to enjoy their work, make mistakes, hang out with youth and talk to them. Their email inboxes are flooded with messages and run out of extra space.

But they keep on inspiring youth. They are hoping and planting seeds of liberty. They are spiritually free despite that their physical freedom is limited.


I think of my future now. How will it be? Will it come at all given the society I live in. Will I be arrested one day? My kids I will have.. if ever. […]

All I know is I want them to be hooligans like Emin and Adnan.

Nevertheless, many of Hajizade and Milli's supporters remained resigned to more delays.


As it was, the hearing was held although witnesses displayed selective memories. As usual, friends and supporters of Hajizade and Milli used new and social media such as Facebook and Twitter to update others.


The fact that key witnesses and the alleged victims themselves were unable to provide testimony prompted one supporter to hope that the trial might now end.


However, although it was proven that the two activists had reported an incident of physical assault against themselves, missing key evidence soon gave many reason to fear the worst. [Update: Eurasianet has since reported that the phone records were ruled inadmissible by the judge]


Amidst criticism that the authorities are stringing out the trial indefinitely, their fears were probably well founded. Despite calling a break, the hearing was not resumed.


Yet, while the action against Hajizade and Milli looks set to continue in a trial considered by the international community and local civil society organizations to be highly flawed, perhaps the last laugh went to Hajizade and Milli's supporters who noticed the irony when the two activists were taken away.


Also somewhat ironically, the date set for the next hearing will coincide with a roundtable discussion on the case at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

Hooliganism or Freedom of Speech? The case of two bloggers detained in Azerbaijan

On July 8, 2009, two bloggers and political activists, Andnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, were arrested in Azerbaijan on charges of “hooliganism”. The bloggers were detained shortly after posting a video on YouTube mocking the Azeri government's purchase of donkeys from Germany. After nine trials, the two bloggers (both without prior criminal records) remain imprisoned. The four presenters will form a panel discussion to speak about this particular case of the bloggers and what it means for freedom of speech in Azerbaijan as well as the greater Caucasus region.

Present for the event will be Parvana Persiani, Hajizade's girlfriend and a senior figure in the OL! Azerbaijani youth movement, who will also be attending next week's World Blogging Forum in Bucharest, Romania.

Global Voices Online hopes to interview her there and Persiani will also feature in a live Internet interview on Kosmoshow.

Full coverage of the detention and trial of Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli is available in the Azerbaijan section of Global Voices Online and on the OL! Blog (in English and Azeri). The hashtag #EminAdnan is also used on Twitter.


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