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'We should not expect a fair decision'

08.01.2018

 
Khayal Azizov, Media Institute

Proceedings of the journalist Afgan Mukhtarli’s case are held in Balakan District Court of Azerbaijan. The next session is scheduled for January 12.

He appeared first on the trial of January 5, after his sister, and his two nephews died on December 31 due to the gas leak. Investigation is in progress regarding the incident.

According to Netgazeti, Mukhtarli’s lawyer, Nemat Karimli, asked the court to replace the imprisonment of Mukhtarli with an arrest, taking the tragedy into consideration. However, the court did not satisfy the demand. Also, Mukhtarli was not allowed to attend the funeral.

Mukhtarli's lawyer was demanding the arrest on the trial on November 30 too, but the motion was neither satisfied by the judge at that time.

At the session on November 30, lawyer Elchin Sadigov demanded to make a re-examination regarding the money, which the investigation accuses Afgan Mukhtarli of,  to change the preventive measures on Mukhtarli. At the same time, the lawyer has put a motion on the court to take video recordings from the customs checkpoint. Also, Elchin Sadigov has filed a motion so that the court recognize the evidences submitted by the prosecution to the court as inadmissible.

"It is acceptable for us to use all preventive measures prescribed by law, except for imprisonment. Besides, there is no basis for the fact that Mukhtarli will hide, he will pressure witnesses or falsify the evidence” - said Elchin Sadigov.

According to the lawyer, if the examination will be carried out again, the finger prints of the customs officers will be revealed on the money.
"Afgan has not illegally crossed the border, he was kidnapped from Georgia. Later he was taken to a military unit where he was detained for a certain period. We requested to take the camera records, but the investigator said that the cameras were not installed in the military unit. We demand to check the place and see whether there are cameras or not" – said Sadigov.

Prosecutor Gurban Mamadov considered the motion set by the lawyer as groundless and demanded the court not to satisfy them. Afgan Mukhtarli started talking during the prosecutor's speech and the judge considered this behavior as disrespectful.

"What I am doing is not disrespectful, disrespect is that you do not know the case, you have come here and tell lies," said Afgan Mukhtarli at the court session.

On December 14, the trial of journalist Afgan Mukhtarli continued under the chairmanship of the judge Humbat Salimov at the Balakan District Court. Journalists who had come to cover the trial were not allowed to enter the courtroom. Although the defense side stated that this is a violation of the court's publicity, the protest was not taken into consideration.  

The lawyers also raised the motion to get Afgan Mukhtarli out of the iron bars and let him sit next to the lawyer, however, the judge did not satisfy this motion.

The lawyer Nemat Karimli expressed his protest over the participation of police officers in the courtroom. According to Karimli, conducting the court proceedings under the supervision of police officers is a pressure, which is why the law enforcement officers should leave the courtroom. The judge did not agree with that.

The motion of the lawyer, which was satisfied by the judge, was about adding the documents, related to the presumption of innocence of Afgan Mukhtarli, into the case.

Afgan Mukhtarli gave testimony at the trial and said that he was kidnapped from Georgia and brought to Azerbaijan.

"I was arrested because I wrote about the president's family business. The order of my detention was directly issued by President Ilham Aliyev", - the defendant said.

The defendant remembered his kidnapping day at the trial and said that he was tortured during kidnapping.

"I was beaten and put in a car. When we left the city, they put a bag over my head, after some time they removed it. I thought they would kill me. Then I recalled Rafig Taghi. That's why I asked them to kill me with a bullet and not with a knife. They replied that they would not harm me, then they put the bag again and tied my mouth. Soon after they changed the car and I understood that I was in Azerbaijan as an Azerbaijani song was playing in it. One of the people in the car made a call by mobile phone and said: "Mr. General, we have brought the mullah, and now we are coming to the mourning place". Soon we arrived somewhere, they removed the bag and I realized that I was in the military unit, then they took me to Baku from there", - said Afgan Mukhtarli.

Four witnesses and one victim were questioned at the trial. According to lawyer Sadigov, their different testimonies make it clear that Mukhtarli was falsely accused.

Afgan Mukhtarli has one more lawyer in Georgia, a member of Human Rights House Tbilisi, the lawyer of Article 42 of Constitution, Archil Chopikashvili.

"Unfortunately, I cannot attend the trial and I am not fully informed about the process, but it is clear that they do not confirm the kidnapping of Afgan from Georgia, which is a big problem" – said Chopikashvili.

The representative of the Human Rights House Tbilisi, Rusudan Mchedlishvili, always attends the court hearings of Azerbaijani journalist who believes that the accused and his defenders should not expect a fair decision.

"Journalists were not allowed into the trial and neither was I, however, when they understood that I was not a journalist, they let me in the courtroom. I had the impression that the judge was an advocate of the prosecutor and they acted together against the accused", - stated Rusudan Mchedlishvili.

Azerbaijan's government accuses journalist Afgan Mukhtarli of resisting and using force against government representative. In addition, the case has been initiated against him for illegally crossing the border and for smuggling. International human rights organizations recognize Afgan Mukhtarli as a political prisoner.

This article was prepared in the frame of a project implemented by the Human Rights House Tbilisi with financial support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tbilisi and National Endowment for Democracy. Human Rights House Tbilisi is responsible for the content of the article and the views in it do not necessarily express the views of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

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