Eight of those arrested over the Ganja events – Bakram Aliyev, Habib Gurbanov, Elmir Huseynzade, Vugar Yusifov, Shahin Verdiyev, Emil Mammadov, Mirza Huseynov and Asif Javadov – said at their trial on 6 September that they had begun a hunger strike the day before.
At the trial, which was chaired by Dadash Imanov, a judge at the Ganja Court for Grave Crimes, the defendants said they had gone on a hunger strike in protest at a speech delivered a day earlier by the prosecutor, in which he demanded serious punishment for them, in particular for Bakram Aliyev and Habib Gurbanov (15-16 years in prison).
"This is about human life. What did we do? Is there any proof? My life is so miserable in there. What did I do, after all? How can you be so unfair and unjust?" Habib Gurbanov protested.
The judge tried to calm the defendants and said the prosecutor's speech was not equal to a final ruling and that the court would deliver a verdict and therefore there was no ground for this much concern yet.
" You will give us the prison term the prosecutor seeks less one or two years. Then, a court of appeal will or will not deduct one or two years, God knows. And our lives will be miserable. Why? This is so bad, and we did not even commit any crime. We are being given this much punishment for nothing. How can you be this cruel?" were further words of protest that the defendants said in court.
The lawyers of two of the defendants – Shahin Verdiyev and Asif Javadov – delivered speeches. The materials of the case allege that Asif Javadov guarded Rashad Boyukkishiyev, who is accused of murdering police colonels and was killed two days after the incident, in the square. Javadov's lawyer said in his speech that the charge was not true as Asif was not even near Rashad.
The lawyer said that Javadov had lost his parents at an early age and that he was raised under the guardianship of his father's sister. The lawyer also spoke about Javadov's health problems.
The lawyers who made speeches stressed that their clients were not guilty and that the charges filed against them had not been proven and they wanted them to be acquitted.
The trial will continue on 12 September.
It was not possible to obtain comment from the Penitentiary Service on the defendants' statement that they had declared a hunger strike.
Charges had been filed against the defendants under the Criminal Code's articles 29.120 (attempt at premeditated murder), 220.1 (organizing or participating in mass riots), 228.4 (acquisition, sale or possession of a gas weapon or cold weapon), and 315.2 (use of force against a representative of the government that threatens their life or health).
In his speech on 5 September, the prosecutor argued that the charges had also been proven in the course of a judicial inquiry. Under those articles, he sought 16-year imprisonment for Bakram Aliyev and 15 years for Habib Gurbanov. The prosecutor found it appropriate to clear the other defendants of the charges of attempt at premeditated murder and suggested that Mirza Huseynov be sentenced to eight years, Asif Javadov and Elmir Huseynzade to seven years, Shahin Verdiyev and Vugar Yusifov to six years, and Emil Mammadov to five years. In the opinion of the prosecutor, Bakram Aliyev and Habib Gurbanov should be held in a top-security prison, five persons in a general-regime prison, and Emil Mammadov in a corrective institution.
Emil Mammadov was 15 when he was arrested. Born in 2002, Emil is still a minor.
Up to 80 people were arrested following the Ganja events. Their cases were split into several groups and sent to court. Among them is Yunis Safarov, who is accused of assaulting Elmar Valiyev, the former mayor of Ganja.
Sentences have been passed on six groups whose cases were sent to court and appeals have been reviewed. The court of first instance sentenced the defendants to prison terms ranging between six to 10 years. The Court of Appeal commuted the sentences of the majority of them and a total of six of them have been released.
The men are accused of organizing mass riots in Ganja in connection with the 10 July protest last year, violence against police officers during those events and offering resistance. The accused men, however, reject the charges.