Azeri bloggers released from prison
After a long and continuous pressure from several civil society groups and European international organisations such as the European Parliament, the Presidency of the European Union, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, the US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the two Azeri bloggers arrested in 2009 on false pretences of hooliganism, have been finally released from prison.
A Baku court released Emin Milli on 18 November 2010, one day after his friend Adnan Hajizade’s release. The court however did not release them on account of their innocence; it just suspended the rest of their sentence (14 months out of the entire 30 and 24 months sentence respectively).
The decision was welcomed by Reporters Without Borders which, however, expressed its disappointment for the fact that the bloggers had not been cleared. “We nonetheless regret that his conviction has not been quashed as we have always insisted that he was arrested for exercising the right to free expression and was jailed on grotesque charges after a sham trial. The vigilance must not let up and the campaigning must continue in order to protect him from any kind of harassment or intimidation by the authorities and to obtain the release of Milli and Fatullayev,” stated the organisation.
After his release, Hajizade reaffirmed his innocence and said he would remain in Azerbaijan and continue his blogging. Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli’s lawyers have submitted their case to the European Court of Human Rights hoping to overturn their conviction and be declared innocent.
On this occasion, pressure for all sides continues for the release of newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev who has been imprisoned since April 2007 for his political convictions, on false pretences as well. On 22 April 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the journalist had been illegally detained and asked for his immediate release.
The Azeri supreme court partially complied with the European Court ruling by rejecting his conviction on charges of terrorism and inciting hatred. Yet, the court still retained the earlier conviction on charges of tax fraud and possession of heroin.