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AZERBAIJAN: Internet writers sentenced on hooliganism charges

Friday 20 November 2009 - 12:00am

RAN 57/09, 20 November 2009

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN protests the prison sentences handed down to Internet writers and youth activists Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade. International PEN fears their convictions are linked to the critical material about the Azeri government they posted on the Internet, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Azerbaijan is a state party.

Emin Milli, aged 30, is the co-founder of the online Alumni Network organisation and the editor of the internet television site, ANOT. Adnan Hajizade, aged 26, is the co-founder of the youth movement OL (To Be). On 8 July 2009 Milli and Hajizade were arrested by the police in a restaurant in Baku following a scuffle outside between the two men and others. Milli and Hajizade claim that the incident was deliberately set up to provoke the fight, and that while they were victims of an assault, they are the ones to be prosecuted fro "hooliganism" while their attackers were set free.

On 11 November 2009 a judge with the Sabail District Court in Baku handed down a two-year and two and a half-year prison sentence to Milli and Hajizade respectively, on charges of ‘hooliganism' and ‘inflicting minor bodily harm'. It is widely believed that these are fabricated charges, and that the reasons for both Internet writers' convictions are their postings on the Internet on government corruption, education and freedom of expression.

Milli and Hajizade's most popular piece is a video that has been widely distributed on the internet in which a person dressed as a donkey holds a news conference and speaks about the good life in Azerbaijan, satirising the Azeri government's decision to pay very high prices to import donkeys. The video had been released just days before their arrest. To see the video in YouTube (in Azeri language with English subtitles) click here.

Milli and Hajizade's defence lawyers have announced they will appeal their sentence. The case has raised international condemnation