Happy Birthday! – from Vaclav Havel
Posted By Demdigest On October 20, 2010 @ 3:21 pm In Regions | No Comments
Imprisoned blogger Emin Milli had an unexpected birthday surprise recently – signed copies of Vaclav Havel’s books, sent by the author himself.
Fellow blogger Adnan Hajizade and journalist Eynulla Fatullayev also received copies of Havel’s “Letters to Olga” and “The Garden Party”, with a personal greeting from the former Czech President.
The gifts were arranged by Peter Semneby, the European Union’s Special Representative to the South Caucasus, who had heard that the three imprisoned dissidents were keen to learn more about Havel’s work and experiences, not least the former dissident-turned-president’s own time in jail.
Fatullayev has reportedly started a hunger strike to protest the government’s rejection of a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights urging his release.
He is serving a sentence of eight-and-a-half years after being found guilty of making a terrorist threat, inciting ethnic conflict and tax evasion. Human rights groups and free media advocates have dismissed the charges as fabrications.
The bloggers were arrested after Hajizade’s organization, the Ol youth group, posted a satirical video on the Web in which a donkey holds a press conference praising the wonderful life donkeys enjoy in Azerbaijan.
Ol is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy.
Milli and Hajizada received sentences of two and two-and-a-half years, respectively, after being convicted of “hooliganism” following an incident widely believed to have been framed by the authorities.
U.S. President Barack Obama has urged Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev to free the bloggers and improve the regime’s human rights performance.
He “expressed his hope that Azerbaijan as a young democracy would implement democratic reforms and increase protections for human rights, including by releasing two jailed bloggers.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the bloggers’ case on a recent trip to the southern Caucasus after democracy activists pressed her to raise their plight in support of freedom of expression.
“President Obama and I have both received many letters about the two young bloggers who are in prison. And I certainly have raised [the issue] in my meetings,” she said.
The bloggers’ case has drawn attention to the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of Aliyev’s regime, including the closure of independent media outlets and threats to curb civil society groups.
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