AZERBAIJAN: BLOGGER ADNAN HAJIZADE RELEASED FROM PRISON
Radio Liberty/November 18, 2010 - 6:49am
Complete shock reigned in the Baku Court of Appeals on November 18 when the prosecution announced no objections to the release of imprisoned blogger and youth activist Adnan Hajizade. But the announcement was no mistake. After serving 16 months on charges of hooliganism, Hajizade is now free from prison.
Twenty-seven-year-old Hajizade, a leader of the OL Youth Union, and fellow blogger and youth activist Emin Milli were imprisoned in 2009 after a scuffle in a Baku restaurant that followed the distribution of a video the pair had produced that mocked the government’s imports of donkeys. Hajizade received a two-year prison term ; Milli was sentenced to two-and-a-half years.
The sentence, widely condemned by international media advocacy groups and Western governments, was seen as an attempt to silence criticism of the government. Among other issues, both men had a reputation for protests against corruption, restrictions on freedom of expression and the referendum to abolish presidential term limits.
Pressure is now likely to mount for 31-year-old Milli’s release as well. After Judge Sahibkhan Mirzayev announced the decision to release Hajizade, the blogger, still surprised, asked: “How about Emin? I want him to be freed as well.”
No date has been given yet for a hearing of Milli’s petition for an early release by the Salyan district court. Hajizade’s lawyer, Isakhan Ashurov, said that lawyers will continue to pursue a full acquittal for both Hajizade and Milli.
Hajizade’s father, political scientist Hikmet Hajizade, characterized his son’s imprisonment as “useless, stupid cruelty,” and expressed appreciation for the international and domestic support that he believes helped secure his son’s release.
“We had to live through a very difficult year, but thanks to democrats here and throughout the world, help of the media and human rights activists, Adnan is free now,” he said.
International human rights organizations, the European Union, the United States and various democracy activists have long called on the Azerbaijani government to free the two bloggers. Their ongoing detention was named by Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights monitors as one of the negative aspects of Azerbaijan’s recent parliamentary election campaign.
International and domestic pressure aside, reasons for the prosecution’s sudden change of mind toward Hajizade were not immediately clear. In his remarks to the court, prosecutor Chuingiz Shukurov stated that Hajizade had not committed a grave offense and had not violated any prison rule or regulation. The Garadagh district court had earlier rejected Hajizade’s petition, and prison officials  did not recommend his release. During the Court of Appeals session, one prison official characterized as strange Hajizade’s requests to consult with his attorney before answering prison officials’ questions.
In remarks to reporters, Hajizade asserted Milli’s and his innocence and underlined that he will continue video blogging about Azerbaijan’s social problems.
“Freedom is my right. Neither Emin nor I are hooligans,” Hajizade said. “I will continue doing what I used to do before the arrest. I hope Emin will be set free soon as well.”
ADNAN HAJIZADA: A MAN SHOULD BE READY TO JAIL
2010 November 19/TURAN ( Friday ) “My life in jail was easier, than I expected. Azerbaijani citizens, especially men, can be arrested any time. There were many difficulties during my arrest, but I could get over it and stayed alive,” blogger Adnan Hajizada said in his interview to Turan.
He said he has found out about his release only when the Baku’s appeal’s court has announced its decision. On July 26 the Garadag district court refused to release him ahead of time.
Hajizada believes that his arrest and imprisonment were a mistake from the point of view of law and human rights. “I am not a criminal and always respected Azerbaijani laws,” he added.
He thanked all people who supported him all this time. “To be honest, I did not expect such a wide public support. I made sure that there are people in the world, who take such words as justice and human rights seriously. I also would like to thank all students and teachers of the University, where I studied, local and international human rights organizations and my lawyers for assistance. These people have played a great role in my release,” Hajizada said.
Asked if he is going to continue blogging, Hajizada said: “During the past 17 months of imprisonment I was isolated and had no idea what’s going on in the internet world. I had no access to newspapers. My hobby is video blogging and I am not going to quit,” Hajizada said.
Hajizada said he does not want to be involved in politics.
While in jail he could make some antennas to listen to Voice of America, Radio Liberty and BBC radios on short waves, because their information was very important for him.
He wished release of the journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, whose imprisonment was illegal as well.
Asked why he has not been released earlier, despite appeals of U.S. President and Secretary of State, Adnan answered: “I think my arrest was related to my public activities. The U.S. residents, including students and teachers of his University, have requested U.S. President, Secretary of State and Congress to help to solve this issue. The democratic government cannot ignore such appeals.”-0-
SECOND AZERBAIJANI 'DONKEY BLOGGER' FREED!
Democracy Nov. 19, 2010 RFE/RL: A court in Azerbaijan has freed jailed opposition blogger Emin Milli, one day after releasing fellow blogger Adnan Hajizada from prison.
EMIN MILLI WILL CONTINUE HIS ACTIVITY AS A BLOGGER
2010 November 19 ( Friday ) TURAN: The blogger Emin Milli who has been released today after 17 months of imprisonment feels well. "My health is normal, but I am a bit tired," told Milli in his interview with Turan.
He called “interesting” the time he spent in jail. "I have read several hundreds books, and got aquatinted with interesting people,” he said. The topics of the books was different: world classic, history, philosophy, economy, etc. He read in jail Dostoyevskly, Begbeder, Geoffrey Sasha.
The attitude to Milli of administration of the jail was correct. He did not have any problems with prisoners as well.
Being asked if he will continue blogger activity he said: "Blog is such a sphere that a worker or a president are involved. Despite my activities, I will write down my thoughts and will continue my blogger activity," Milli said.
He expressed great gratitude to
The attitude towards me and Adnan was not fair. There are many cases of unfairness in the words, but Adnan and I are lucky that the attention to our case was increased. When media covers unfairness a society develop. I hope that our arrest and protection will serve for the development of the human rights protecting sphere in Azerbaijan.
all who protected him in Azerbaijan and abroad.
«The attitude towards me and Adnan was not fair. There are many cases of unfairness in the words, but Adnan and I are lucky that the attention to our case was increased. When media covers unfairness a society develop. I hope that our arrest and protection will serve for the development of the human rights protecting sphere in Azerbaijan," Milli said.
He said that he will not deal in politics. "I do not consider myself a politician, and I did not plan political career," Milli said.
Being asked if he will try to obtain full rehabilitation the blogger said: "We passed trough all instances in Azerbaijan, and now our case is in the European court on human rights. I think that European Court will say its word," Mili said.
* Emin Milli was released on probation before time after 17th months of imprisonment.
Freed Azerbaijani Blogger Says Year Without Internet Was 'Torture'
Azerbaijani opposition blogger Emin Milli has been released early from prison, one day after fellow blogger Adnan Hajizada walked free. The jailing of the two men, widely attributed to their video clip mocking the government, had drawn international condemnation as a gross violation of free speech.
Saturday, November 20, 2010 By RFE/RL
BAKU -- Azerbaijani opposition blogger Emin Milli has been released early from prison, one day after fellow blogger Adnan Hajizada walked free.
The jailing of the two men, widely attributed to their video clip mocking the government, had drawn international condemnation as a gross violation of free speech.
Milli reflects on his arrest and his time behind bars in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service correspondent Khadija Ismayilova.
RFE/RL: You were released on probation today after spending more than a year behind bars on charges of hooliganism. How do you explain what happened to you?
Emin Milli: I think it was injustice, another injustice. I'm thankful to all those who helped expose this injustice. I think all my friends, all journalists, have done a really great job.
RFE/RL: How did you react to the court's decision to release you early, had you expected it?
Milli: I was expecting anything. In my country you can expect anything. I'm glad I'm out of prison. I'm a little tired, but glad.
RFE/RL: What about your arrest last year, did it take you by surprise?
Milli: I thought I may be arrested in five or 10 years if I went down this path, but it happened really quickly
The Donkey Video
RFE/RL: Many believe your jailing was punishment for an Internet video that showed your fellow blogger Adnan Hajizada giving a mock government news conference dressed as a donkey. What do you believe?
Milli: I don't know. To be honest, I still don't know why exactly I was arrested. But I assume I was arrested just for telling the truth, for free thinking, for free expression, and this video was part of it. But I don't think it was the only reason for our arrest.
RFE/RL: What was the aim of this video clip?
Milli: I think it's a piece of art. My participation was very small in creating this piece of art. But I think that like any piece of art it's open to interpretation from anyone who sees it, and I don't want to spoil the pleasure by giving my own interpretation.
RFE/RL: You've been called a blogger, a social activist, a politician. How would you describe yourself?
Milli: It's a very good question, and I ask this myself very often. I think I'm a bit of everything, I'm a cross between all the things you mentioned. I think this is not unusual for my generation. Of course, I'm not professional in any one of these fields, but I do a little but of everything and I try to tell as much truth as possible.
RFE/RL: Are you considering a political career?
Milli: No. I'm not looking for a political career, and by this I mean running for elections and this kind of thing. Some people call what I do political, but I don't call it political because politics for me is something else. It's when you do something to get votes.
RFE/RL: Now that you are a free man, do you intend to continue blogging?
Milli: Yes, I think this is part of my nature, and I can't go against my nature.
RFE/RL: What did you miss the most in prison?
Milli: I missed [the] people I love. I missed my friends, my wife, my mother. I also missed freedom -- not spiritual freedom, because I had this even in jail. I missed freedom of movement, freedom of using the Internet. I think Internet deprivation is a new form of torture for people of our generation.
US WELCOMES RELEASE OF BLOGGERS IN AZERBAIJAN
Fri Nov 19, 3:42 pm ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States on Friday welcomed an Azerbaijani court's release of two opposition bloggers whose jailing sparked an international outcry.
"We welcome the early release of Azerbaijani youth leaders and bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli. We hope for a speedy release of editor Eynulla Fatullayev as well," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.
"We closely monitored the trial and sentencing of the bloggers," he said, recalling that both US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had publicly appealed for their release.
"The United States remains committed to working with the government of and people of Azerbaijan to advance democratic reforms, including freedom of expression and association," Crowley said.
Milli, 31, was released Friday to serve the remainder of his sentence as a suspended term, a day after fellow blogger Hajizade, 27, was similarly set free by the Baku Appeal Court, their lawyer Isakhan Ashurov told AFP.
The two were convicted on hooliganism charges in November 2009, with Hajizade sentenced to two years in prison and Milli to two-and-a-half years.
The charges related to a scuffle in a restaurant but the bloggers insisted they were politically-motivated attempts to silence their criticism of Azerbaijan's authorities.
Their jailing drew widespread criticism and accusations that Azerbaijani authorities were trying to stifle free speech.
The two were arrested shortly after posting a popular Internet video of a donkey giving a press conference, lampooning ex-Soviet Azerbaijan's docile press and statements by government officials.
COMMISSION WELCOMES AZERBAIJANS RELEASE OF BLOGGERS
2010 November 20 ( Saturday ) 11:33:49/TURAN
"Leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today welcomed the release in Azerbaijan of two journalists who had been jailed in 2009 on charges widely seen as political", TURAN's Washington DC correspondent reports.
"I am pleased that bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli are finally out of prison. I hope we will not see any more such cases in Azerbaijan, where press freedom continues to be lacking," said U.S.
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Commission Chairman. The U.S. Helsinki Commission leadership wrote to President Aliev about this case last year, calling for the bloggers to be released.
The two men – sometimes called the "donkey bloggers" because they had made a film satirizing officialdom - were arrested in July 2009, after an altercation in a restaurant in Baku. Though they reported to the authorities that strangers had accosted and attacked them, a Baku court convicted them of hooliganism
in November 2009, sentencing them to two and two and a half years in prison. Their arrest and conviction were criticized internationally by many capitals and human rights groups as an attempt to stifle youth activism and free expression in Azerbaijan. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raised the issue publicly when she was in Baku in July.
"The release of these two bloggers is a positive sign from Azerbaijan’s authorities," said Co-Chairman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL). "I also urge the court to free Eynulla Fatullayev, in accordance with the ruling
of the European Court of Human Rights."
Fatullayev, former editor of two popular newspapers in Azerbaijan, was sentenced in July to two and a half years in prison for drug possession. Fatullayev has said the government planted drugs on him.
His newspapers, the Azeri-language daily Gündalik Azarbaycan and the Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan, folded.
"As the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media has urged, Baku should decriminalize libel, which would promote freedom of expression and could help improve the bilateral U.S.-Azerbaijan relationship," said Chairman Cardin
EU SPECİAL REPRESENTATİVE COME TO BAKU TO MEET WİTH RELEASED BLOGGERS
2010 November 20 ( Saturday ) TURAN: The Office of the European Union Special Representative in Azerbaijan kindly informs that the European Union Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Ambassador Peter Semneby, will pay short visit to Baku on November
21-22, related to the recent release of the two youth activists Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade.
EUSR Semneby will meet with the bloggers and their families and have discussions with the representatives of diplomatic corps in Baku. He plans to return to Baku at the end of the week with the regular working visit to meet the Government and civic society representatives.