The Baku Court of Grave Crimes on July 28 continued hearing on the case of human rights activist Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus. Scores of people attempted to attend the hearing but were not allowed in.
The authorities maintained that the courtroom was full, though lawyer Elchin Gambarov noted that there were 15 vacant seats. Visitors attempted to open the doors of the court waiting room, which led to an altercation between court bailiffs and protestants.
reported that protestants banged on the courtroom door, shouting “biased court” and “the year 1937,” referring to the year of Stalin’s repressions.
Among those denied entry was Turan news agency director Mehman Aliyev. When asked about reasons for denying entry, a police officer told Aliyev that access was restricted to journalists only. “I’m also a journalist, let me in,” Aliyev responded.
Three plainclothes police officers offered to escort Aliyev, who was then denied entry.
Journalists observing from outside the courtroom heard Leyla Yunus demand that reporters and activists be admitted to the hearing.
Finally, only a US Embassy official, lawyer Samira Agaeva, and two journalists were admitted to the courtroom.
Founders of non-profit organization Women for Peace and Democracy in the Front Caucasus and the ex-wife of jailed journalist Rauf Mirkadyrov testified in the trial.
Leyla Yunus, the director of unregistered human rights organization Institute of Peace and Democracy, and Arif Yunus are accused of spying for Armenia, charged widely dismissed as spurious by human rights groups. During the hearing, Leyla noted that her husband wrote a book in the 1980s about the expulsion of Azerbaijanis from Armenia and the Khojaly genocide.
“This is the process of the 30s. You’re acting upon orders You’re doing what was done against Solzhenitsyn,” she said addressing the judge and prosecutor, whom she described as “butchers.”
“In Azerbaijan, there are despotism and repressions, you cannot disobey orders,” Leyla Yunus added.
Leyla Yunus is diabetic, and her health has been rapidly deteriorating. Last month, images circulated of Leyla Yunus looking significantly frail and with grey hair.
The next hearing is scheduled for August 3, 2015.