03 June

Togrul Verdiyev

On 03 June another trial on the case of the events in Ganja in July 2018 was held in the Baku Court of Appeal headed by the judge Chingiz Mammadov. According to the agency Veten ugrunda, that day there was a hearing of 4 out of 11 defendants. All of them stated their innocence and the brutal torture they had suffered at the Ganja police station.

In his speech, the defendant Togrul Verdiyev said that on 10 July, he was going along with his friends for prayers at the mosque. On their way to the mosque, they heard screaming and some noises. But when he suddenly recalled that he had forgotten his keys at work, he went back to work. Two days later, two policemen came up to him on Sabir Street and led him to the head, Adalat Sadigov, of the Nizami district police station in Ganja. He was asked questions there. Adalat Sadigov asked him if he had ever been to Iran. “Have you been to the city of Gum, have you prayed there?” To receive a positive answer, Adalat Sadigov said to other policemen, “Since he was in Iran, and prayed in Qom City, then he is the enemy of the people.”

After telling all that, T. Verdiyev asked the judge, “If I had been committing a crime, why do you think I am requesting you to watch a video footage from the square where the events had taken place?”

Then Verdiyev referred to the charges against him, “I was told that I had thrown stones at the police officers and pushed them using both of my hands. However, I am left-handed and work with one hand only.

Moreover, they wrote in the accusation that I had been praying for 5 years. Whereas, in fact, I have prayed just once. Finally, another accusation is that I belonged to a group. But, in reality I met all these people on the bench only after my arrest, here.” Then he pointed out that two policemen, Rukhi and Nijat, were witnesses at the police station and falsely slandered him.” I told them – fear God, you have children! One day, when all this happens to your children, you will regret it. And they answered me, “Brother, if we do not do this, then they will put others to witness against you”.

Then the word was given to the defendant Seymur Aliyev, who also categorically denied all the charges against him, claiming that they had been a lie, “It was as if I had thrown a stone at some policeman. Why is there no name of this policeman? Can’t they find that policeman on the video to identify him? Two days later, I was sitting in a teahouse owned by an investigator Khanlar. He called me and then, came to pick me up from the teahouse to the police station. But, it was written in the record that I had been arrested on 10 July.”

Another defendant, Tural Bayramov, intervened and said that he personally saw that Seymur Aliyev had been brought to the police station on 12 July.

In his speech, the defendant Orkhan Yagnaliyev indicated that he had come to attend the wake of his passed away grandmother in Ganja when he was arrested, “I was sentenced to one year and a half imprisonment for a car accident on 08 January 2018. On 08 July, I got news about my grandmother’s death, and I got permission to leave prison for two days in order to assist her funeral. I came by bus and headed to my uncle’s house. My parents live in Russia. Together with my uncle’s son, my cousin, we went to the place where there was a wake. On the way, my cousin told me that we should stop the pharmacy and buy medicine for his mother. We turned to the pharmacy but immediately saw that the blocked streets. When we reached the Nizami District Court, two policemen grabbed my cousin. I recognized one of them, Vusal. I told him that my cousin had a heart disease, and asked Vusal to let him go. At that moment, some unknown man in civilian clothes showed up, pointed at me and ordered to detain me.”

According to O. Yagnaliyev, when they were brought to the police station, there had been a lot of people there. The policemen started beating them in the corridor. «Vusal, a policeman, left us with another policeman, Vugar Qarayev, telling him that we were innocent. But then we were told that we would be given 20 days for resisting the police and would not be tortured much. On July 11, I was sentenced to 15-day-arrest, while my cousin was sentenced to 20 days. Then we were transferred to the Nizami police station. When we got inside, we saw the head of the department, Adalat Sadigov, and an investigator Orkhan Babayev from the General Prosecutor’s Office. They told us to give them 5 000 manats and then they let us go. I answered them that I had not been guilty and it would be proved anyway, so I would be released anyway. In response to my words, Adalat Sadigov said it is Azerbaijan, and there is no law here. He added that my name would be included in the list of the Ganja event participants. And then he laughed at me saying that he can even shoot me. And he concluded, “I’m not afraid of anyone.” Another investigator, Orhan Babayev, said, “I know what needs to be done to make you be smart.” After heard him saying that I was stripped naked, my arms and legs were tied up and attached to the heating system. I was beaten up severely that I got completely deaf in one ear and, now I can’t hear. My nose was broken and my head was hit so hard, so it was smashed. Then they pinched my thumb between the doors, tortured my legs so I couldn’t walk for some days. After all kinds of torture I was subjected, they threw me into the disciplinary cell of the Ganja prison. There, we have not be given any food or drink for 3 days”.

Further, Orkhan Yagnaliyev noted that both he and all those arrested on Ganja cases were robbed by the policemen. The officers had stolen money from their pockets, some valuables such as rings, golden chains taken off from their hands and much more. Some detainees’ phones had been taken and never returned back.

Then O. Yagnaliyev added that he was in a prison on 03 July. But the police protocol states that he was messaging with representatives of some groups by phone, “I was in prison on 03 July, and they didn’t give us to use our phones. It was only on 09 July when I returned home and used my old phone there. How could I correspond by phone from the police station? I was forced to confess that I had taken part in the action. I was subjected to such horrible tortures that I almost hanged myself in a cell.”

O. Yagnaliyev’s father got hysterical listening to his son talking. He could no longer hear what had been done to his son and left the courtroom going outside.

Vaqif Ashrafov, a Russian citizen, was born and lives in Moscow. His testimony “On 28 July, one police officer, Ruslan, called me and asked me to come to the police station. I went there. I was accompanied to Adalat Sadigov’s office. Sadigov asked me if I had been to the square. I replied that he had not been. I was held at the station until the 31st of July, and then arrested for 15 days on charges of speaking loudly on the phone while being outside. To do that, they activated my old phone I hadn’t used for three years. They were trying to prove that I had been negotiating with the protesters”.

Then V. Ashrafov told the court about the tortures he was subjected to, “I was tortured by an assistant prosecutor by the name of Nihad. He took me to a room where I saw many broken chair legs. He tied up my arms and legs and pushed me on the floor. He has beaten me with those broken chair legs. Moreover, he took off his shoes and started hitting my ears with a heel, so my ears got bloody and torn. And these wounds haven’t healed yet. The only thing I have managed to tell him that I had blood clots and heart problems. But Adalat Sadigov said, “Where he has more pain, that’s exactly where you should hit him the most.”After that, the judge announced the end of the session and scheduled the next one on 20 June.

04 June

Qalaqayin village

In February 2019, the police searched and confiscated 106 books and booklets, including the Bible and the New Testament, as well as CDs of Christian songs, in the house of Baptist couple Safgan and Gulnara Mammadovs, which is situated in Qalaqayin village, Sabirabad district in southern Azerbaijan. The police officers drew up a protocol on confiscation of the religious books and booklets, based on which the judge, Nuraddin Bagirov, from Sabirabad district court found Sabirabad and Gulnara Mammadovs guilty of violating the Articles 451 and 515.0.3 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Azerbaijan Republic, and fined the spouses for 1.500 Manat (800 Euro) each, i.e. for 3 000 Manat (1.600 Euro). This is a huge amount even for the citizens working in the capital. But for the residents of the province, it is unimaginable.

Disagreeing with the verdict, the Mammadovs appealed to the Shirvan Court of Appeal. However, on 04 June, the judge Rafiq Jafarov rejected Gulnara Mammadova’s appeal, and the judge Ismayil Ahmadov similarly rejected Safgan Mammadov’s one. “The trial lasted only 10 minutes and rendered an unfair decision,” said an employee of the Norwegian organization Forum 18.

“Safgan and Gulnara can’t lodge further appeals,” the head of the Baptist Union Pastor Ilya Zenchenko told Forum 18 from the capital Baku. “We are considering writing to President Ilham Aliyev about the case”.

12 June

The Supreme Court rejected Abulfaz Bunyadov’s appeal. He was convicted for participation in the Nardaran events.

A group of human rights activists, civil society activists and intellectuals asked the country’s leadership to help release Bunyadov due to his serious health condition; he suffered from limb paralysis, hepatitis C, intestinal infection. However, the call of the democratic public remained unfulfilled despite a threat to the convicted’s life.

The very same day, there are a preliminary hearing on the so-called “Ganja events” at the Baku Court of Appeal. It concerned a group of 8 people convicted on 02 March 2019. As reported by the convicts’ families to the agency Veten ugrunda, all prisoners decided to start a hunger strike on 14 June as a protest against the judge’s refusal to consider their complaints.

13 June

There were trials conducted by the judge Dadash Imanov in the building of the Sabunchi District Court. It concerned two groups of 8 people each in the so-called “Ganja case”. As it was reported by the Human rights activist Ogtay Gulaliyev to the agency Turan, two new lawyers, Shahla Gumbatova and Zibeyda Sadigova, joined a defence team of the accused that day.

“The participation of the new team of lawyers created right away tension between them and the judges. Thus, the Judge Dadash Imanov repeatedly interrupted the defendants and their lawyers, unreasonably warned them, when it came to the subject of torture, and all that caused discontent in the court room,” Gulaliyev said. In this connection, the lawyer Gumbatova and a number of other defenders asked to disqualify the Judge Imanov. The challenge or disqualification of the judge will be considered today.

One of the most important moments at the trial on 13 June was reading out the letter written by the General Prosecutor’s first deputy Rustam Usubov, in which he underlined the investigation results connected to the tortures of convicted people at the pre-trial proceedings. “Such an unfair prosecution announcement provoked protests among the convicts who had been subjected to moral and physical abuses, and whose bodies were still covered with injures caused by tortures,” O. Gulaliyev said. He thinks that the investigation has been superficial. He pointed out that video footage made in the period from the 10 to 11 July at the Ganja police department hasn’t been seen at all.

The Human rights activist supposed that a team of independent lawyers participation in the trial would complicate a task of enforcement officials to hide facts of torturing inmates. He also mentioned that there were representatives from the USA Embassy and European Union who assisted the trial on 13 June. They did not come to the previous hearings.

14 June

During the police raid conducted in the city of Agsu in October 2018, three believers Rauf Madjidov, Gambar Zeynalov and Vugar Mammadov were arrested for “illegal religious assembly conducting”. They were fined by the local district court and should pay from 1.000 to 2.000 manats, or from 530 to 1.060 Euro. Not having accepted the court decision, they appealed to the Shaki Appeal Court.

In November 2018, the Shaki Appeal Court rejected Madjidov’s and Mammadov’s appeals and left the the previous court decision unchangeable. As about Gambar Zeynalov’s complaint the judge Mirbahaddin Huseynov came to another conclusions and changed the local court verdict since “it did not correspond to the facts”. However, the plaintiff side filled a counter-complaint. And on 14 June, the judge of the Shaki Appeal Court M. Huseynov changed his decision one more time and confirmed the local court verdict in case of Gambar Zeynalov.

18 June

Elvin Nazarov

Vugar Khudiyev

The Baku Appeal Court headed by the judge of the Ganja Court of Serious Crimes, Salman Huseynov, held a scheduled hearing on the so-called “Ganja cases” involving the group of the convicted on 01 March 2019. The agency Veten ugrunda reported that complaints of the convicted, Elvin Nazarov, Elman Rustamov, Elvin Allahverdiyev, Neymat Heydarly, Renat Mammadov and Vugar Khudiyev had been considered.

At the trial, Vugar Khudiyev spoke about the terrible torture he had been subjected to at the Kyapaz police station in the city of Ganja, «I was beaten for a very long time at the police station in order to break my back but they could not do it. Then they tied my arms and legs and chained me to a chair. They kept asking me if I knew some Rashad. After getting my negative relies, they pushed my chair to the wall, turned it over on the floor, and kept beating me up. Later, in the pre-trial detention center in Kyurdakhani, my cellmates told a doctor that I had had a broken rib, and asked him to examine me. The doctor asked who I was? He was told that I had been a Ganja prisoner. Then the doctor said that they had been asked not to check the prisoners of “the Ganja case”.

At that moment, the judge Salman Huseynov interrupted Vugar Khudiyev by saying, “Don’t talk about repressions here, stop it! Tell me why you came to Ganja?” and thereby prevented the disclosure of torture facts in court.

Then V. Khudiyev began to talk of his arrival to Ganja along with two friends of Elvin Nazarov on 10 July, when he visited Imamzade Mosque: “Then we went to have a rest and drink tea in the Khan Garden of the city. At that moment, two policemen came up to us and demanded to follow them to the police department. We obeyed and followed them. On the way, a policeman by the name of Emin said that we would be given 15 days of administrative arrest, and then you would go home. But he did not explain why we would be sentenced to 15 days. But, at the police department, I was told that after 15 days of detention, I had to go to Mingachevir and not come to Ganja afterwards. I answered them that as a citizen of the country I could go anywhere I wanted.” V. Khudiyev added answering the question of Public Prosecutor Adalat Azimov, “I was arrested while sitting in Khan Garden drinking tea. But the police said that I had been detained during the action at the square.”

When Zibeyda Sadigova, a lawyer, asked “Did you ask about the detention reasons?” V. Khudiyev answered: “Were we allowed to talk and do anything? They treated us brutally. As we were brought to the police department, they immediately told us that we had been given 15 days of imprisonment. They just said that they had been instructed to send all those who had been brought to the police department for 15 days of detention.” The judge Salman Huseynov tried to object, “The decision on administrative arrest is made by the court, not by the police”, but V. Khudiyev immediately pointed out to the judge that there had been no trial and the decision was made by the policemen themselves, who told him about the 15-day sentence. Moreover, neither lawyers nor close family members were there. Neither his rights were explained to him.

At the end, B. Khudiyev pointed out that he was constantly beaten up at the Kyapaz Police Department. At the same time, it was said that they had been waiting for orders from “above” to shoot us all. Then an investigator came in and said that he would give me the Article 531 of the Criminal Code, as if I had taken part in mass riots. When they brought us to the Kyurdakhani pre-trial detention facility, all the detainees in the cells were told not to approach those who had been arrested in the connection to the Ganja case, otherwise they would have problems and would be convicted under the same article, as well as for treason”.

Following the statement of the state prosecutor Adalat Azimov that the 6 convicts had not been subjected to any kind of torture, the 6 detainees were outraged. The judge’s attempt to calm down the convicts had failed. Each of them started immediately talking about tortures they had been subjected to. Elvin Nazarov said that he had had no contact with his relatives for 7 months, and then turned to the state prosecutor A. Azimov saying, “Come to me and look at my wrists. There are still some traces of torture. My hands were handcuffed, I was thrown on the floor, and then a 150-kilogram man sat on my hands and the handcuffs crashed into my bones in the wrist. I was bleeding all over. And now you say there was no torture? And what happened to us then? ”

Then the judge stopped the hearing and announced the rescheduling to 24 June.

21 June
Shahin Verdiyev
(in centre) and other defendant of so-called
“Ganja case”

There was a scheduled hearing on the so-called “Ganja case” of a group of 8 people in the Sabunchi District Court under the presiding of the judge of the Ganja court on serious crimes Dadash Imanov. However, according to Seminara Verdiyeva, a correspondent of the Veten ugrunda agency, at the very beginning of the session her son Shahin Verdiyev’s condition suddenly deteriorated drastically, “The doctors were urgently summoned. After having examined Shahin, they came to conclusion that he urgently required medical attention. But, although we asked to substitute imprisonment for a house arrest for Verdiyev, we did not receive permission to do so. They could make only injections to relieve the pain in the Medical Department of the Penitentiary Service. I buy myself all the necessary drugs. My son was brutally subjected to torture during the investigation. His mouth and eyes were covered with scotch, his hands were handcuffed behind his back, his legs were tied up, and then he was tortured with electric shocks”.

She added more, “My son was tortured under the supervision of Orkhan Babayev, an investigator for particularly serious crimes at the General Prosecutor’s Office. The latter personally electrocuted him, so that my son passed out. They were even obliged to call an ambulance twice. After have been regaining his senses, they started to electrocute him again. That’s why my son is in this condition now, because no one seriously treated him”.

Shahin Verdiyev’s lawyer Zibeyda Sadigova filed a petition demanding to have her client sitting next to her and not in a glass cabin (“aquarium”), but the judge Dadash Imanov declined to grant the request. After that, Sh. Verdiyev, who was in the glass cabin, felt weak and lost his consciousness. Z. Sadigova again petitioned to postpone the process, “Nothing is more important than human life. My client’s state of health is very poor. Please stop and postpone the hearing to another day.” The prosecution’s representative objected, but the judge decided to grant the petition and postponed the trial to 27 June.

24 June

A regular hearing on the so-called “Ganja cases” of the group of individuals convicted on 01 March 2019, was held at the Baku Appeal Court chaired by the judge of the Ganja Court of Grave Crimes, Salman Huseynov. According to the Veten ugrunda agency, at the request of Nazim Musayev, the lawyer of the convicted Neymat Heydarly, the trial began with the video recorded at the square in Ganja, where the tragic events had occurred. Even though N. Heydarly was arrested in the early morning of July 10, long before the rally started, the Judge S. Huseynov said that he wanted the video to be demonstrated, as the defendant had been clearly seen at the square. However, neither the judge himself, nor the state prosecutor, nor anyone else found Neymat Heydarly captured on the video. Then the judge started showing photos of the rally participants, but there was no Neymat Heydarly amongst the participants. Neymat stated that he went to Ganja to buy clothes and that day he was dressed in a black shirt, “My clothes were provided for examination, and you could see what color of shirt I was wearing. The photos you are demonstrating all people are dressed in white shirts. And I could not be on the video, since I was arrested a few hours prior the rally”.

None of 6 defendants have been shown on the video.

The judge again postponed the hearing on 08 July.

25 June

On 25 June, Judge Khagani Mammadov of the Supreme Court in the capital Baku finally rejected Muslim theologian Elshad Miri’s suit against the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations. Miri had been seeking to overturn the State Committee’s ban on the publication and distribution in Azerbaijan of his book “Things Not Existing in Islam»”. As soon as I have the written Supreme Court decision, I will prepare the case to the European Court with my lawyer,” Miri told Forum 18. He said the Court had one month to issue the decision in writing.

28 June

The Baku Court of Appeal chaired by the Judge Alizamin Abdullayev from Ganja Serious Crimes Court, held a regular session on the so-called “Ganja cases” of a group of 8 defendants convicted on 02 March 2019 to various terms of imprisonment. According to the agency Veten ugrunda, the lawyer Polad Maharramov, who initially took the floor saying that the investigation had been conducted in a very biased manner and the accused had not been guilty.

Then the lawyer of the accused Sabir Azizov pointed out that the accusation of the investigators had been based on some sms on WhatsApp that asked Sabir urgently come to Ganja. But the first instance court did not check that fact and either find out if that message had ever been sent.

All the defendants who spoke after that did not plead themselves guilty. Ria Nuruzade stated that he along with his brother Gulmirza and friends Fikrat and Sabir had decided to go to the Lake Goygol to have a rest there. Going there they decided to eat and have tea but they did not know any good place on the road, so they came up to the policeman and asked him to point out such a place. Instead the policeman detained them and brought to the Ganja Police Department, saying that they would receive 15 days of administrative arrest, and then would be released home. However, the report stated that they had been detained by the police, and they had resisted, whereas in fact they just had approached the police officer themselves asking where they could eat and drink tea. After that, they were brutally beaten for 4 days, from morning till evening, and demanded to admit that Elman Quliyev had sent them to Ganja to take part in the action.

At that moment, the lawyer Polad Maharramov made a statement that on the instructions of Colonel Faiq Shabanov, Head of the Main Department of Ganja, about 500 people had been arrested in connection with the July 2018 events in Ganja, which provoked an angry reaction from the representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office Mr. Adalat Azimov.

Then, the accused, Gulmirza Nuruzade, made a statement, saying “I work as a car repair foreman. Following my father’s death I had been missing him and got depressed. My friends decided to help me and offered to have a rest and relax. We were going to the Lake Goygol. We made up our minds and ordered a taxi to go to the Lake. And only after the arrest we realized that the taxi driver had actually been a police officer. At that time, their parents, sitting in the hall, began to speak up that the pseudo-driver from the police actually had drawn up in advance a list of those who should have been arrested for participation in the action in Ganja. Then Nuruzade said that they had been forced to admit under the torture that Elman Quliyev had allegedly called them to take part in the action in Ganja, but he had refused to sign such a confession.

When the arrested brothers Sabir and Jabir Azizov started to speak, their mother who was in the hall got sick. Jabir Azizov said, «We were beaten so badly that we were constantly losing consciousness. They beat us from morning till night and kept demanding to admit that Elman Quliyev had called us to Ganja. But why should I slander Elman? I could not stand the beatings any more that I cut my fingers with a blade. I also began to cut myself all over my body wishing to kill myself. I didn’t want to live any longer. I can’t tell you anything else, since our mothers and sisters are here, in the hall, and I am ashamed, let them leave the hall and then I will tell you the whole truth about all kinds of torture we were subjected to. I cannot say what the police have said and done to us with their pants off. How could we stand it? ”

The process was interrupted and rescheduled for July 26