Court refuses to free two bloggers

Reporters Without Borders is deeply disappointed that a Baku appeal court Tuesday refused to provisionally release jailed bloggers Adnan Hadjizade and Emin Milli and adjourned the hearing of their appeal until 8 January. Their lawyers protested against the court’s treatment of the bloggers, who were led handcuffed into the courtroom.

“By refusing to release Hadjizade and Milli on bail, by treating them as dangerous criminals and by postponing their appeal hearing, the court has lost an opportunity to save face in this judicial farce,” Reporters Without Borders said.

The press freedom organisation added: “No one is fooled. Hadjizade and Mili are being persecuted for criticising the authorities and distributing a video that made fun of corrupt politicians. Perhaps we cannot ask the authorities to share their sense of humour, but it is our duty to remind them of the international undertakings Azerbaijan has given to respect freedom of expression.”

Reporters Without Borders is also concerned about the health of Hadjizade, whose nose was broken during the assault in the restaurant and who has had difficulty breathing ever since.

Hadjizade, a video blogger and member of the non-political “OL! Youth Movement,” and Milli, one of the founders of the “Alumni Network” collective, were arrested on 8 July after being assaulted by three men in a Baku restaurant. Accused of attacking their assailants, they were convicted last month on charges of “hooliganism” and “deliberate physical violence,” and were sentenced to 24 and 30 months in prison respectively.

If their appeal is rejected, their lawyers have said they will refer the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

In a resolution on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan adopted on 16 December, the European Parliament voiced concern about the worsening media situation and called for due process in the case of Hadjizade and Milli, condemning their imprisonment and demanding their immediate release.

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