05 September

The “Ganja case” trial


There was a hearing conducted under chairmanship of the Judge of Ganja court on Grave crimes, Dadash Imanov, on so-called “Ganja case” of a group of 8 people. The trial took place at Sabunchi district court. The defendants were accused of organizing or participating in riots and using violence against the police officers that threatened their health and lives.

The State Prosecutor announced in his final speech proposing to sentence the following offenders to the imprisonment terms: Bakram Aliyev to 16 years, Habib Qurbanov to 15 years, Mirza Huseynov to 8 years, Asif Javadov to 7 years, Elmir Huseynzade is 7 years, Shahin Verdiyev is 6 years, Vugar Yusifov is 6 years and a minor Emil Mammadov (he is under 16 y.o.)  to 5 years in a correctional institution. Aliyev and Qurbanov were sentenced to a strict regime colony.

The public prosecutor’s verdict outraged the relatives of the accused. The defendants’ lawyers were to take the floor but asked for some time to get prepared.

However, the Judge D. Imanov granted them only a day and set another trial on 6 September.

06 September

The trial against a group of 8 defendants in the “Ganja case” has been continued. The day before, a public prosecutor addressed to the court, demanding severe sentences against the defendants, including a juvenile Emil Mammadov. According to the Radio Azadliq the accusation provoked a furious reaction from the defendants’ family members, and on 6 September the defendants declared that they were going on hunger strike in order to protest against such a verdict.

It was followed by three of the eight lawyers’ speeches, who pointed out the innocence of the accused asking the court to acquit their defendants.

The same day, on 6 September, the Baku Court on Serious Crimes started the trial against three defendants: Sahil Ibrahimov, 29 y.o., Namiq Mammadov, 27 y.o., and Ilqar Agayev, 28 y.o., as was announced on the Radio Azadliq. They were accused of collecting money in Azerbaijan and sending those funds to Syria. According to the accusation, it was a sum of half a million Manats (almost $300,000 USD).

According to the investigation, one of the accused’s brother, Samir Ibrahimov, arrived through Georgia and Turkey to Syria in 2016 to take part in hostilities on the side of the terrorist organization ISIS. The investigation assumed that Samir Ibrahimov, while in Syria, had been in active contact with his brother and other radical Salafis (Wahhabis) believers, and asked them to establish connections with Salafis believers in Sweden, Russia, Norway, Finland, Germany and several other countries. The main purpose of those connections was to raise money in order to send the funds to the Azerbaijanis who fought in Syria.

The investigation showed that first the money had been sent from some foreign countries banks to Baku, then to Turkey, and from there to Syria. It was noted that Sahil Ibrahimov repeatedly transferred about 210,000 AZN (about 124,000 USD) at the period from September 2017 to February 2018, while Ilqar Agayev sent an amount of 135,000 USD. And two of them transferred together an amount of 135,000 USD at the period from March to April 2018.

Namiq Mammadov, who was also accused, joined the money transferring process later, said in an indictment document. In May-June 2018, he received in his name up to 40,000 AZN in total from Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Spain. In his turn, he personally handed over those funds to Ilqar Agayev. Agayev has also added money to the received funds and then, Sahil Ibrahimov transported 50,000 USD to Turkey in May 2018, and another 75,000 USD in June.

Charges have been brought against the three defendants under the Article 214-1 (financing of terrorism) of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic. The imprisonment term could be from 10 to 14 years. And Ilqar Agayev was also accused under the Article 228.4 (illegal acquisition, sale or carrying of gas weapon including cold throwing weapon) of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic.

After the prosecutor had delivered the indictment, Namiq Mammadov and Sahil Ibrahimov took the floor, rejecting all charges against them but their attempts to say something else were severely interrupted by the judge.

The opinion of the third defendant Ilqar Agayev was not disclosed. During the trial he was playing with a toy ball and told the judge “let me go, I want to go and meet my friends, they came from far away and have been waiting for me”. His lawyer raised a petition for Ilqar Agayev asking him to undergo a psychiatric examination and insisting that his client was unable to attend the trial “it’s impossible to find out whatever while he is in such state in the courtroom”.

The judge said he would consider the petition and make a decision.

15 September

According to the agency Veten ugrunda, the trial against Sahil Ibrahimov, Ilqar Agayev and Namiq Mammadov continued in the Baku Court of Serious Crimes on 15 September.  They were accused in raising money in Azerbaijan in order to transfer the funds to militants in Syria. Samir Ibrahimov, a brother of accused Sahil Ibrahimov, was among fighters in Syria. According to the investigation, it was transferred over 500,000 AZN or about 295,000 USD from the period from 2017 to 2018.

However, the defendants did not plead guilty at the trial. Sahil Ibrahimov said he hadn’t been involved in the financing of terrorism. He insisted that he along with his brother and his wife left for Turkey in the summer of 2016. Some time later, his sister-in-law, Habiba, unexpectedly fled with a group of women-believers to Syria without informing her husband. Whereas the brothers returned to Azerbaijan right  after her departure. In four months, Habiba sent her mother a photo that captured her along with three girls in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad which she asked the mother not to worry about her life.

Further, according to the defendant, his brother, known among the believers by the nickname “Abu Ibrahim” and who lived in a rented apartment in Qarachukhur settlement on the outskirts of Baku, left his two young children with his brother’s family, and also went to Syria in April 2017. He called his brother from Syria informing him that he had joined the ISIS fighters. “Before his departure, Samir had been selling computers, telephones, clothes and perfume in the village of Qarachukhur, and he had left a list of people who borrowed goods, therefore I was obliged to collect the borrowers’ money  to pay debts back to his family. The money found in my possession was debts to my brother, as well as friends-believers’ donation. My brother asked me to spend that money on his children and family. And before my arrest, I was contacted by his debtors and believers I had known,” Sahil Ibrahimov said in court.

Then Ilqar Agayev, nicknamed “Abu Qaaqa”, a dweller of Agdam-town, was testifying that he had begun to pray since 2012, and in 2015, he met Samir Ibrahimov, nicknamed “Abu Ibrahim” and they became friends. A year later, he learned that “Abu Ibrahim” had gone to Syria, “Samir kept in touch with me through a “Telegram” messenger writing that he had gone to Syria to help his brothers of Islamic faith to fight along with them there. That’s why he is part of the ISIS,” the defendant said.

Then, I. Agayev indicated that in August 2017, “Abu Ibrahim”  wrote him asking to help brother and sisters who joined ISIS. It was said that it should be right to find those people’s relative in Azerbaijan and also acquaintances-believers living abroad who would send money to Syria. “He asked us, me and Sahil, to hand over collected money to some man by the name Maxim. And in his turn, that Maxim would transfer through some man, by the name Djuneyt, who lived in Istanbul to Syria. I agreed to do it. And I met with those who called on Samir’s behalf, and then transferred money to Maxim. Then Maxim met Djuneyt who, in his turn, passed the money to Samir. Only Samir knew how that money was going to be spent”, I. Agayev concluded.

Namiq Mammadov, the second defendant, did not plead guilty either. According to his words, he got acquainted with “Abu Qaaqa” during the prayers in so called “Lezgi” mosque in Baku. In May 2018, they met again by accident in cafe and I. Agayev proposed to Namiq Mammadov to receive on his account transfers sent from different countries as an assistance to poor believers in Azerbaijan. “I considered a help for people of my faith was my duty” , Mammadov said at the trial.

As it was investigated at the trial, Rubaba Ibrahimova, the mother of Samir Ibrahimov who was fighting in Syria, carried the money from Azerbaijan to Turkey. The woman testified “Samir asked me to pass 20,000 USD to Djuneyt who lived in Istanbul, in Turkey. My son said that if the money had not been passed to Turkey, he would have been executed. So, I took that amount and went there”.

Then, Ildiz Karimov testified as a witness at the trial, telling how his grandson Emin went to fight in Syria, “When Emin returned home after completing his military service, I immediately noticed that he had become a religious man. Talking to my grandson over the phone, I told him that I was preparing to go on a pilgrimage to the city of Mashhad in Iran. He replied to me that if I go there, I will become a kafir, i.e. a heathen. In a little while,  I learned that Emin had gone to Syria. In 2015, he died there. His wife and two children stayed in the city of Cancer, in Syria. In May last year, my daughter-in-law called me asking to pass the money to help her and my grandchildren.” After that, Karimov received a phone call from a man who identified himself as “Abu Ibrahim” and asked to pass the money for Emin’s wife through a woman who would wait for him near the metro station “May 28”. “And I gave Rubaba Ibrahimova 1,100 USD,” – Karimov concluded his testimony.

Then Sama Alisoy testified as a witness. She said she had grown up in a religious family and. prayed since she was 12 years old. Her father Intiqam Alisoy went to Syria in 2012 to join ISIS where after a while he became the leader of the “Azeri Jamaat” unit. He was killed at air-strike in 2017. Under her husband’s pressure, Rashid Bargubayov, who was a Tatar, and at her father’s request she moved to Syria in Aleppo in 2015. There, her husband joined the militants.  In 2017, she learned of her father’s death. Her husband wanted to leave Syria but was captured by “Jabhat al-Nusra” and executed in December 2017. In 2018, she was released by Turkish soldiers and officially handed over to the Azerbaijani authorities. “My financial situation was very difficult. I did not have any news from Rashid. I searched my husband’s phone and found the name Vahid whom I wrote explaining him who I was, and saying that my father had been killed. I told him that I had been alone with two young children and needed help. Vahid promised to help.  I received an average of 300 USD every three months from a man who called himself “Abu Ibrahim” starting in summer 2017 up to June 2018,” – Alice said at the trial.

19 September

Sabunchi District Court of Baku

According to the agency Turan and the website Caucasian Knot, the trial on the case of another group of convicts in the case of the July 2018 riots in Ganja was completed on 19 September. The Ganja Court on Grave Crimes was investigating the case in the building of Sabunchi District Court of Baku. As Arzu Abdulla, a member of the Public Committee for Protection of the Defendants’ Rights in the “Ganja case”, has stated that neither journalists nor public representatives were allowed in the courtroom when the verdict was read out. The same scenario had happened at the previous sessions. Only the defendants’ family members were allowed to enter the courtroom. The relatives and the defendants’ lawyers informed the journalists of the harsh sentence for the following people: Eshgin Quliyev was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment, Ogtay Huseynzade and Urfan Mammadov to 18 years of imprisonment, Rauf Bayramov to 9 years, Abbas Abbasov and Elshan Mammadov to 7 years and Huseyn Bayramov to 2 years of imprisonment.

Arzu Abdulla said to the journalists “Rauf Bayramov and Huseyn Bayramov are father and son. Two people from the same family were convicted at once. And Huseyn was given two years ostensibly for what he had known but did not disclose the forthcoming crime. The convicts’ parents got very angry at the unfairness of the sentences.  All women cried out curses at the authorities after the trial. They were convinced of their children’s innocence.” According to her words, the parents and lawyers said they would appeal the verdict.

After the trial, a human rights defender Oqtay Gulaliyev, the coordinator of the Committee against Repression and Torture, stated that the defendants had been unfoundedly convicted. «It is obvious that the court did not proceed to a fair, comprehensive hearing. All defendants’ complaints concerning the torture during the preliminary investigation had not been investigated. That group was sentenced to the longest terms. Apparently, it was simply decided to blame those people for the police officers’ deaths. No doubt, that group would also be recognized as political prisoners, since no reliable evidence had been submitted for the defendants’ guilt. From now on, people’s anger is aimed against the authorities,” Gulaliyev said.

He also noted that the convicts’ parents said that they had no confidence in the authorities, as their appeals and complaints to various instances had been fruitless. “The announcement of the verdict was postponed several times. The parents had to come from Ganja to Baku for several times. Many of them had no place to stay. Some of them just spent the night in the parks. Of course, we will support these people’s efforts in the appeal instance as well. The international organizations have already been informed about the violation in these cases,” Gulaliyev said.

23 September

According to the newspaper Azadliq, there was a hearing on the so-called “Ganja case” of a group of 8 people in the Sabunchi District Court. The trial was chaired by the Judge of the Ganja Court on Grave Crimes Dadash Imanov. The accused Shahin Verdiyev and Elmir Huseynzade made their final words.

Shahin Verdiyev once again confirmed in his speech that he had been innocent. He testified that he had been subjected to brutal torture. He underlined that he had indeed been on the square in Ganja at the time of the protest on 10 July, but he had not committed any illegal actions. Moreover, he left the square some time before the law enforcement officers arrived. He reminded once again that he had been arrested 9 days later after the rally, at the time of his dead father’s memorial service. And further he told about tortures he had been subjected to, “For two days I was brutally tortured in various ways at the Nizami district police department of Ganja city. They electrocuted me, put down trying to drown me in the water, beat me for hours with batons and chair leg as well as their feet. They demanded my confession. When I refused to sign up their papers, an investigator Orhan Babayev repeatedly kicked my head against the table. I couldn’t stand it any more and was forced to sign.  I also told about all this in detail at the trial, but the judge did not pay any attention to my words. I was prevented from meeting and talking to my relatives by phone for months. And the state attorney appointed to help me, in reality was helping the investigation… not me.”

Shahin Verdiyev once again emphasized that the prosecution had not provided any evidence of his guilt in the course of the trial. A video recording of the incident was shown during the trial but it was clearly seen that he had not committed anything illegal. On that ground, Sh. Verdiyev categorically denied his guilt. “It was not initially announced that the rally would be illegal and no one should come to the square that day. If it had been done, then not only me, but many of us would not have gone there,” Verdiyev concluded his speech.

In his final word, the 23-year-old Elmir Huseynzade asked for a full acquittal. He claimed that all the charges against him had been libel. He also described the reason why he had gone to the square on 10 July 2018, “I was simply curious to see what was going on there, that’s why I went to the square that day. But I paid a high price for my curiosity. I was suddenly turned into one of those who provoked all this at the square. I still can’t understand why I was arrested and what I’m accused of…”

He also spoke about the brutal torture he had endured during the investigation, and all in order to sign up the testimony needed to support the investigation, “When I refused to sign something, the investigator again subjected me to brutal beatings and torture. And I was asked not to tell anyone about the torture I had experienced. And therefore I was also forbidden to meet or talk on the phone with my parents. At the same time, the investigation team was completely indifferent whether I had been guilty or not. The charges brought against me have been based on fictitious experts’ conclusions and false witness’ statements.”

The defendant went on saying that he was convinced in the course of the trial that the judges did not have any intention to objectively examine the case either, “The judges turned a blind eye to the issue of torture I had raised. The facts in my favour, brought by my lawyer Shahla Humbatova, caused the judge’s annoyance. And the judge repeatedly made comments to her, threatening to deprive my lawyer of her job and generally used words, unworthy of a judge”.

30 September

The released “Ganja case” defendants, 30 September 2019

According to the agency Turan and the website Caucasian Knot, the trial on the case of another group of the convicts on the case of the July 2018 riots in Ganja was completed on 30 September. The case was examined by the Ganja Court on Grave Crimes in the building of the Baku Sabunchi District Court. As Arzu Abdulla, a member of the Public Committee for Protection of the Defendants’ Rights on the “”Ganja Case””, has stated no journalists or public representatives were allowed to be heard the verdict at the courtroom as it happened at the previous hearings. Only the defendants’ family members were permitted to enter the courtroom. The public defender was informed by the convicts’ lawyers and parents.

The four defendants received real prison terms, while the other four received conditional convictions. The court sentenced the following people: Bahram Aliyev to 15 years of imprisonment, Habib Qurbanov to 8 years, Mirza Huseynov and Asif Javadov to 5 years of imprisonment each.

At the same time, the court sentenced Vugar Huseynov and Emil Mammadov to 1 year, 2 months and 2 days of imprisonment. Since they had already served that sentence, the court released them in the courtroom. “The court considered Emil Mammadov age, he was 15 years old at the time of his arrest. As about Vugar Huseynov, he suffered a heart attack during his detention, and the court took into account his health condition. Shahin Verdiyev and Elmir Huseynzade were sentenced to two and three years of imprisonment respectively, and they were also released in the courtroom. Of course, it is good that four people have been released. But, we are disappointed that the other defendants have received severe long-term prison sentences,” Arzu Abdulla said. The convicts are planning to appeal the sentence, she said.

Sevinj Huseynzade, the mother of the released Elmir Huseynzade, said that despite her son’s release, she did not agree with the verdict. “My son did not commit any crime. We will file an appeal seeing acquittal,” she told the correspondents.

The released E. Huseynzade also expressed disagreement with the verdict. “We should have been acquitted, we are not guilty at all. What have we done? Should people be arrested, tortured for watching some events?” he told the reporters.

Shahin Verdiyev said he seriously compromised his health during his detention. “At one point, I even lost my ability to independently move, I had a heart attack,” Verdiyev said and added that he would file an appeal.

Oqtay Gulaliyev, the Head of the Committee against Repression and Torture, declared, “Of course, it’s very good that four defendants have been released, one of whom is only 16 years old now. But four people got harsh sentences. Their names will be added to the list of political prisoners. We were waiting for the trial to be completed. The monitoring of the court investigation and information provided by their parents and lawyers give reasonable grounds to believe that these people have been prosecuted on trumped-up charges” in order to justify the Ganja events as the actions of religious radicals,” Gulaliyev said.