Nijat Nazim oglu ALIYEV (2012-2019)

JOURNALIST

editor-in-chief of “Azad heber” website

Date of arrest – 21 May 2012

Charges
(2000 Criminal Code)

167.2.2.1 – Importing religious literature

(import, sale or distribution of religious literature, religious items and other informational materials of religious nature with the aim of reproduction, sale and distribution without appropriate authorization, when committed by a group of persons on a prior arrangement or by an organized gang);

234.1 – Narcotics

(Illegal manufacturing, purchase, storage, transportation, transfer or selling of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances or their precursors);

281.2 – Public appeals for violent overthrow of existing order

(Public appeals for the violent capture of authority, violent deduction of authority or violent change of constitutional grounds or infringement of territorial integrity of the Azerbaijan Republic, as well as distribution of materials of such contents, by a group of persons);

283.2.3 – Fomenting ethnic, etc, hatred

(Incitement of national, racial, social or religious hatred and hostility, humiliation of national dignity, as well as restriction of citizens’ rights, or establishment of the superiority of citizens on the basis of their national, racial or religious background, when committed publicly or through use of mass media, by an organized gang).

Penal facility – Prison No. 2

Case summary

Aliyev is the editor-in-chief of http://www.azadxeber.az, a religious- oriented website of a critical nature. Before Aliyev’s arrest, the website published materials criticizing the government’s policy in regard to religion, the allocation of too much funding for the Eurovision 2012 Song Contest, and the possibility of an LGBT parade in Baku. On the eve of Eurovision, after spreading these materials and CDs containing the speeches of theologians Abgul Suleymanov and Tale Bagirov, Aliyev and nine other religious activists were promptly arrested.

The journalist was first charged with possession of narcotics, a widely used charge against activists. Eight months after his arrest, on 26 January 2013, three more charges were brought against Aliyev. This happened only two days after PACE voted against the list of political prisoners developed by Christopher Strasser, the PACE rapporteur on political prisoners, on 23 January 2016, which marked the end of his mandate as rapporteur.

Sentence – On 9 December 2013, Baku Court of Grave Crimes sentenced Aliyev to 10 years loss of liberty, the full sentence requested by the prosecutor. Baku Court of Appeal upheld the judgment on 7 April 2016. The Supreme Court also dismissed the appeal filed against the decision of the appellate court.

Commentary

Nahid Mammadov, an employee of the State Committee on Work with Religious Organizations who was invited as an expert, identified instances of inciting of national hatred in the speeches contained in the CDs, however, he failed to explain the details of these instances in the trial.

Even if such speeches actually existed, the calls were not made by Aliyev. Nonetheless, Aliyev was found guilty of making such speeches. The book titled “Mocuzasiz mocuza’” (“Miracle without miracle”) written by Arshad Azimzade, which was taken from the journalist’s house and authorities claimed propagates religious extremism, speaks about treating a human body by fasting. The book has been published in Azerbaijan and is not officially banned. However, the investigation issued an opinion against the journalist, stating that the book had been imported and reflects calls for religious extremism.

During the presentation of the investigation’s findings, and while the expert was answering questions, it became obvious that the opinion had been ordered. Although the journalist himself, and his lawyer Yalchin Imanov, stated in the trials that Aliyev was tortured by police and sustained serious injuries at the time of his arrest, these claims were not investigated. Aliyev is married. He was arrested only 23 days after his wedding.

Amnesty International described the charges against the journalist
as questionable. [ref]

Release — Released after presidential pardon on 16 March 2019.

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