Religious activists

Religious activists (2012-2013)

Some of the persons arrested in this case are youth who, like journalist Nijat Aliyev, believed that an LGBT parade could be held in Baku on the eve of the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2012 and considered this as unacceptable for Islam. These persons attended the peaceful protest against the hijab (headscarf) ban at schools in late 2010. Some had published articles on the website that Aliyev edited and assisted to collect information.

Along with Aliyev, they decided to clearly express their position by protesting the destruction of houses in the run-up to Eurovision – without due compensation or court orders – as well as the trumped-up arrests of religious followers, the hijab ban and the issues of the LGBT parade. They prepared CDs with speeches of theologians Abgul Suleymanov and Tale Baghirzade (both of whom are in prison under false charges), a speech by Azerbaijan Medical University teacher Rashid Mahmudov on ANS TV about LGBT issues, as well as excerpts from various protests on social issues, and scenes from some Azerbaijani movies. As noted in the court ruling, they spread these CDs “publicly” at various places in Baku. In their testimonies in the investigation and trial, the defendants said they had been attempting to share their positions with others.

An expert from the State Committee on Work with Religious Organizations issued an opinion report on 28 June 2012, stating that the content of the untitled CDs, as well as those titled “Eurovision 1,” propagated intolerance and hatred against the state structure and state bodies, and was aimed at inciting confrontation. The court did not grant the motion requesting an independent examination of the CDs. In addition, expert Nahid Gadir oglu Mammadov failed to explain what methodology had been used in the examination, and how he concluded that the content was of a negative nature. To most questions he gave answers such as “I don’t remember,” and “I have forgotten.” Stating that the expert was not ready to answer questions, the lawyers requested additional time for him to prepare, but the judge did not grant the motion and announced that the questioning was concluded.

The evidence provided by the investigation on other charges brought against the defendants included the testimonies of police employees and search witnesses. But conflicting points in the testimonies came out during questioning in the trial. Nijat Aliyev and Elvin Nasirov were subject to torture at the time of their arrests. As a result, two of Aliyev’s teeth were broken, and his eardrum was injured. Although both reported this in the trial, the judge decided only to address a letter to the Baku Pre-trial Detention Facility to examine whether there was evidence of torture on their bodies at the time of transfer to the prison. The letter received from the prison said there was not.

Initially, two of the defendants, Valeh Abdullayev and Ali Aliyev, were not sentenced to pre-trial detention, but they signed a statement committing not to travel. However, in contradiction of standard practices, the court did not issue a conditional sentence.