In a surprise decision, an Appeal Court in Baku, Azerbaijan, today ordered the conditional release of video blogging youth activist Adnan Hajizade. Initially detained in July 2009 along with fellow activist Emin Milli, the two men were sentenced over four months later to two years in jail in what many believe was a politically motivated trial. Even significant outcry from the international community left many supporters resigned to their fate.
Hajizade's detention and imprisonment came soon after restrictions were introduced on foreign broadcasters operating in the oil-rich former Soviet republic, and as youth activists, many from the OL! Azerbaijan Youth Movement he co-founded, became more active. Along with fellow activist Emin Milli, he was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International a day after both men were sentenced.
Naturally, when news of his release surfaced, many supporters of Hajizade, a co-founder of the Azerbaijani OL! Youth Movement, were relieved. Photographs and news reports were shared on Facebook while comments and links were also spread on Twitter.
One even made Twitter's Top Tweets when @leylanajafli uploaded and linked to a photograph taken by the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety of Hajizade newly arrived at home. Her comment used as its caption was very poignant indeed.
Yet, despite the circumstances surrounding Hajizade's arrest, as well as conditional nature of his release, when asked by RFE's Azerbaijan service if he will continue to blog, Hajizade's answer was simple. “Yes, yes,” he said as he left the courtroom. “Video blogging.“
Judging from other interviews given by Hajizade, as well as comments made by supporters on Facebook and Twitter, attention will now turn to Milli who remains in prison along with journalists such as 2009 International Press Freedom Award recipient Eynulla Fatullayev.
A summarized chronology of events surrounding the imprisonment of Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli as well as the campaign for their release can be found in Global Voices’ Caucasus 2009 Blog Review.