This week saw the end of Vagif Kkhachaturyan’s trial, a military parade in Karabakh, and the first lawsuit against a media organization by the Media Development Agency.
Vagif Khachaturyan Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison
Vagif Khachaturyan, accused of involvement in the Khojaly massacre against Azerbaijanis in Meshali village, concluded his trial with a verdict of 15 years in prison.
The sentence stipulated that he serve the initial 5 years in a regular prison, followed by the remainder in a high-security penitentiary. Despite asserting his innocence and pleading for an acquittal, Khachaturyan was convicted by a panel of judges from the Baku Military Court.
In his final statement, Khachaturyan vehemently denied any role in the Meshali massacre, expressing belief in God and invoking divine justice upon those responsible for the crime. He specifically named Badara, a village resident, asserting that he was present with his family during the incident. Khachaturyan’s lawyer echoed the plea of innocence, advocating for his client’s acquittal during the trial.
Azerbaijani Military Conducts Victory Day Parade in Karabakh
On November 8, the Azerbaijani army organized a military parade in Khankendi (Stepanakert) to mark “Victory Day”.
President Ilham Aliyev and First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva were present at the ceremony. “Victory Day” was officially declared by President Aliyev on December 2, 2020, following significant developments in Shusha on November 8 during the 2020 Fall Karabakh War. The war concluded with a tripartite declaration signed on November 10, leading to the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Aghdam, Lachin, and Kalbajar.
A formal peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia had not been finalized at that point.
Media Development Agency Sues Site Over Registration, Lawyer Deems it a Freedom of Expression Violation
The Media Development Agency (MEDIA) has filed its first lawsuit against a media organization, claiming non-registration with the media registry. “dia.az,” led by Mahammad Zamanov, now operating as a blog, faces court action seeking to terminate its activities due to lack of registration. Legal experts, including Khalid Agaliyev, argue that the national “On Media” law exceeds constitutional limits on freedom of expression, anticipating potential recognition of violations by the European Court of Human Rights.
Agaliyev underscores the law’s impact on freedom of expression, urging its revision in line with the Venice Commission and Council of Europe resolutions. The Media Development Agency, previously facing legal challenges from media organizations, is now suing sites like “24saat.org” and “dogruxeber.az,” demanding a minimum of 20 daily news stories for registration.
The “On Media” law in Azerbaijan, enacted in February 2022, includes provisions for a unified register of media and journalists. Despite the law’s approval, independent journalists, media experts, and international organizations, including the Venice Commission, criticize it, viewing it as a threat to freedom of expression and media autonomy.