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Azerbaijan: Emin Milli released, but another activist detained

Following yesterday's news that video blogging youth activist Adnan Hajizade had been conditionally released in Azerbaijan, Facebook was today awash with news that his friend and fellow activist, Emin Milli, had also been freed. Amnesty International had adopted both as prisoners of conscience.

Both men were detained in July last year after a brawl in a Baku restaurant and sentenced just over four months later to 2 and 2.5 years in prison respectively. International human rights organizations considered the case politically motivated.

As statuses were updated alongside photographs and video of Milli reunited with friends and family were posted on Facebook, the news was also spread on Twitter.

EMIN IS FREE!!!!!! Hearing just took place in prison. #EminAdnan #Azerbaijan #Freedom

Emin Milli is FREE as well! :D #EminAdnan #Azerbaijan

Young bloggers #Eminmilli and #Adnan are released by the court of appeal. #Azerbaijan #EminAdnan

Emin Milli & Adnan Hajizade is Free! Can't expess feelings now. #EminAdnan #Azerbaijan #EminMilli

#EminAdnan released from prison #Azerbaijan #freedom of expression finally! [...]

Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade are both released from prison now. Congrats and thanks to all dear friends!

Photo from RFE/RL

Collapsing Directions, a blog written by an international organization worker once based in Azerbaijan, comments on the release of both men, but also sounds a note of caution.

[...] what seemed so distant has suddenly happened: Adnan and then Emin were freed; the prosecutors raised no objections, the court proceedings took place so quickly as to almost be invisible. There is a somewhat intangible and unreal aspect to this liberation. Nevertheless, I still fear that they will once again be the victims of injustice.

I know the time is for rejoicing, but I cannot help but keep in mind that those who differ, oppose or criticize are still pressured or worse; that the very recent parliamentary elections were anything but democratic; that a candidate for those elections has just been detained at the Georgian border; that even though Emin and Adnan are free, others are not and will continue to bear the burden of injustice.

Indeed, before news of Milli's release came, his supporters were already tweeting news of the detention of Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, a Harvard-educated activist who unsuccessfully ran for parliament in Azerbaijan earlier this month.

Deputatlığa namizəd Bəxtiyar hacıyev Gürcüstanla sərhəd qapısında saxlanılıb

Candidate Bakhtiyar Hajiyev detained at the border gate with Georgia.

Candidate in #Azerbaijan Parliamentary Elections @Hajiyev2010 has been arrested at Georgian border – unclear on reasons, will clarify.

Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, youth activist, candidate for parliament, arrested & handcuffed in Aze-Geo border, taken to nearby military base

no reason given for arrest of independant candidate @Hajiyev2010 – authorities say they'll hand him over, but to whom is unclear. #Azeraijan

Could this really be happening again? @Hajiyev2010 ‘s brother arrived where Bakhtiyar is being held but unable to meet with him. #Azerbaijan

Bakhtiyar Hajiyev will soon be taken to Shemkir District Military Prosecutor's Office and will spend the night there. #Azerbaijan

Emin and Adnan are both free now. But there is a new victim, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev @Hajiyev2010

Meanwhile, in a post commenting on the release of Hajizade, Caucasus also reminds readers of the case of imprisoned 2009 International Press Freedom Award recipient Eynulla Fatullayev.

This news is of course cause for celebration, but Hajizade emphasized that he is innocent, and wants eventual exoneration [...] and it should be remembered that Azerbaijan’s gutsiest journalist, Eynullah Fatullayev, remains incarcerated on separate charges, including libel, tax evasion, and (ridiculously) instigation of terrorism and inciting ethnic hatred.

[...]

[...] Fatullayev has gone on two hunger strikes, and the European Court of Human Rights has ordered Azerbaijan to release him and pay a 25,000 euro fine. Although the government has essentially told the Court to, um, be fruitful and multiply, the Azerbaijan Supreme Court dismissed the original charges against him on 11 November.

[...]

Does this mean that a release of Fatullayev is in the offing as well? That’s a tough call, since as I’ve said in the past, Fatullayev is the one journalist in the country who makes everyone uncomfortable. [...]

A summarized chronology of events surrounding the imprisonment of Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli as well as the campaign for their release can be found in Global Voices’ Caucasus 2009 Blog Review.

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