The South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders

Declined solicitations
Giorgi Janelidze,  


Trial into the criminal case against Azerbaijan human rights defender Rasul Jafarov was renewed in the Baku Court on Grave Crimes at 11:00 am on March 31; locals said during Tsarist Russia the building of the court was used as a stable for horses. Representatives of the EU Mission and US Embassy in Baku, of local and foreign nongovernmental organizations attended the hearing.  Meydan TV, Radio Liberty/Free Europe and Voice of America were only media organizations to observe the trial. Accused Rasul Jafarov was led into the courtroom shackled but during the trial the shackles were removed. Jafarov looked cheerful and healthy during the hearing. During the short break, when judge was consulting, he contacted the audience with gesticulation and loud shouts. Even bailiffs laughed at his jokes. The prosecutor is an old man with green uniform, he reminded of the communist epoch prosecutor, who in early 1980s, in Tbilisi, demanded life-penalty for young boys in the so-called “airplane boys case”. In the name of the state he equally charges robber, thief and human rights defender. The judges entered the courtroom and audience got up.

The previous trial was postponed because one of the main witnesses Rashad Sharimova was abroad. Based on the notification from the state border agency the lady had crossed the Azerbaijan state boarder at the Heydar Aliyev International Airport in January 2015. However, Azerbaijan law enforcement officers had questioned her in September last year. In accordance to the interrogation protocol, the witness knows the accused human rights defender and Rasul had hired her twice as an interpreter. Once he paid 300 manat as an honorarium and second time – 250 manat. According to the protocol, the witness could not recall whether they had signed contract but confirmed validity of her signature on the payment checks. In her letter to the court witness Rashidova notified that she lived and worked in the Netherlands for what could not attend the trials and asked the court to use her testimony of September 2014 as evidence. The defense side did not oppose it and Rashid Shahidova’s testimony was read at the trial.

Rasul Jafarov’s lawyers Pariz Namazli and Alibaba Rzaev solicited to question Atlas Huseynova, mother of former political prisoner Ilker Rustamzade. The defense side stated that in 2013 Jafarov financially assisted the lady because she had social problems. At the previous trial the judge did not satisfy this solicitation because none of the parties knew full name of Ilker Rustamzade’s mother. The prosecutor was categorically against questioning of additional witnesses. He claimed the solicitation was not well grounded and added that Rasul could deliver additional evidence to the Azerbaijan law enforcement officers during preliminary investigation but he did not do that… Rasul Jafarov had a desire and his lawyer solicited to invite Ilker Rustamzade as additional witness. According to current information, the latter had prepared a video-roll for Rasul Jafarov’s campaign Art for Democracy and received honorarium for his work. The defense side solicited to interrogate the additional witness but the court declined it saying it was not well-grounded.

The next issue discussed at the trial was rent of the office space. Only husband participated in the hearing though he owns the space together with his wife. The solicitation of the defense side to invite the wife to the trial as a witness was not satisfied by the judge as ungrounded request. 

The court received letters from the organizations which had paid salaries or issued grants to Rasul Jafarov. The letters stated that the accused HRD always timely submitted reports to them. 

The door of the courtroom was opened several times that caused noise; we had an impression that it happened purposefully to cause noise in the courtroom and cover dialogues during the trial. In accordance to one of the accusations, Rasul Jafarov did not officially register his organization. The defense side provided detailed letters from donor organizations on memory stick to the court as evidence and added that in order to draft projects it is not required to register organization and there are many examples of it. The lawyer handed the materials to the judge. The prosecutor asked Jafarov why he did not provide those materials as evidence during preliminary investigation and the HRD replied it was impossible for him to collect this information during investigation because the documentations were issued later. Besides, initially he was self-convinced but after he read the accusation protocol in December 2014 he acknowledged it was necessary to collect and provide additional documents. The prosecutor categorically opposed to accept the information as official evidence and claimed it was fabricated but the judge satisfied the solicitation.

In the next solicitation the defense lawyers requested to change imprisonment into house arrest. Rasul Jafarov stated with regard to this solicitation – “I have never tried to hide from investigation! When my personal accounts were frozen I was abroad. I could stay there but I returned home. During my stay in the country, I could hide somewhere or illegally cross the border but I did not do that.  Mr. Judge, I assume you already know what kind of person I am.”

The judge did not cancel the solicitation on the change of preventive measure and postponed it for future consideration. 

The lawyer Alibaba Rzaev solicited to expertise calligraphy; even more the so called “victims” also requested it. Besides, in accordance to the alternative expertise conclusion the signatures are authentic. The so-called victims also confirm authenticity of their signatures. Expert of the Ministry of Justice claims the signatures are fake. Two “victims” provided originals of two checks. The prosecutor opposed to invite the expert of the Ministry of Justice. Finally the judge declined the solicitation saying it was not well-grounded. However, he did not exclude possibility to consider the solicitation in future. The next issue was about 1 055 manat paid by the Norwegian Embassy in Baku to Rasul Jafarov to cover his travels to different conferences.

At the end of the trial the judge requested documentation from the Norwegian Embassy. As it was cleared out the defense side had only a letter but as for the full documentation, the lawyers should send request letter to the Norway to get detailed information. 

Sanan Jafarov, Rasul’s brother:  

We have solicited for house arrest but I do not know what they will decide. It is sort of theatre for me. As for the final, it is like 50/50 option; I cannot predict how it will finish.

Rasul Jafarov’s mother and brother were in the courtroom. The mother refrained from making comments. As we later found out, she avoids making public comments with the fear to lose job. But she said - she has no idea about the activities of her son. 

Alibaba Rzaev, Rasul’s lawyer:

The court breaches rights of the accused person and of the lawyers. They should have accepted our solicitations. The court violates procedural code. We presented solicitations after the interrogation of the witnesses but they declined all of them.
The next trial is scheduled on April 9.

Copyright © 2009 - 2024 | All Rights Reserved