The Collegian
Monday, May 16, 2022

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Appeal date set for Hajizada

Adnan Hajizada's father is uncertain but hopeful that his son will be released from prison after an appeal is heard in the Baku court of appeals on Dec. 22.

Hajizada, 26, was sentenced to two years in an Azerbaijani prison for hooliganism and inflicting bodily harm after he and a fellow activist, Emin Milli, were involved in a fight in a restaurant in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

Hajizada graduated from the University of Richmond in 2005. Hikmet Hajizada, Adnan's father, said he had seen his son once since his arrest on July 8, 2009.

"[His] spirit is well and he salutes all those who support him and specially [the] Richmond community," Hikmet said.

The parents of Hajizada and Milli appealed to the courts to be allowed to see their sons. They said Azeri law requires they be allowed to see them, but the appeal was denied.

Amnesty International officials released a report and said they believed the charges against the bloggers were fabricated as a way to silence their criticism of Azeri authorities.

The men were arrested about a week after Hajizada posted a video critical of the government's policy of importing German donkeys. The activists used new technology and social networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to speak out against the government, a method of activism the government was not used to.

Amnesty International officials also said the trial of Hajizada and Milli, which ended on Nov. 11 with guilty verdicts, was unfair.

"Amnesty International has repeatedly highlighted its concerns on the increasingly limited sphere for freedom of expression in Azerbaijan and about the use of criminal charges to silence peaceful dissenting voices," the report said.

The Azeri government released a statement soon after the activists were arrested and the international community began responding. The press release on the government's Web site said the men were arrested fairly and that they would receive a fair trial. The government has not made any official statements outside the courtroom since then, but there have been some online reports that the government is promising to improve government-media relations and media freedoms.

A blog post on International Media Support's Web site from October 2009 said Azeri authorities promised "a free and professional media environment."

Hajizada began a youth movement called Ol! Milli and co-founded the Alumni Network after President Ilham Aliyev eliminated the presidential term limits.

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If the appeal is denied the bloggers will appeal to European courts, Hikmet said.

Contact staff writer Stephanie Rice at stephanie.rice@richmond.edu

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