NIDA Activists Sentenced (UPDATED)

As the verdict is expected today, Meydan TV publishes NIDA’s closing speech.

UPDATE May 6, Baku, Azerbaijan

The verdict on NIDA trial was out today around 2 p.m. As a result, Shahin Novruzlu was sentenced to six, Uzeyir Mammadli, Bekhtiyar Guliyev and Rashad Hasanov to seven, Mahammad Azizov to seven and a half, and Zaur Gurbanly, Rashadat Akhundov and Ilkin Rustemzade to eight years in prison.


On May 6 the case of eight detained activists of NIDA Civic Movement, known as NIDA trial will come to an end, as the verdict is expected. By then, the activists will have been on hunger strike for 20 days. During the last hearing on May 1, Rashadat Akhundov, one of the activists, read NIDA’s final speech on behalf of all eight detainees.

The full translated text of the speech is presented below.

The Closing Speech

Of Bakhtiyar Guliyev, Shahin Novruzlu, Mahammad Azizov, Reshad Hasanov,

Rashadat Akhundov, Uzeyir Mammadli, Zaur Gurbanli, İlkin Rustemzade

To the Baku Court on Grave Crimes

Dear Court,

Dear trial participants,

We, as defendants, have decided for our last speech to the court to be announced by one person on behalf of all of us. The reasons for this is that the government does not see us as individuals, but rather targets the NİDA civil movement we are member of and subjects it to repression. You may consider our last plea as coming both from eight NIDA activists present here and other NIDA activists that are either free or under arrest.

Usually, defendants ask for mercy from the court, sometimes, express their regret. We don’t need mercy, neither feel regretful, since we haven’t done anything to regret for. Nor do we expect justice from the court hearing this fabricated lawsuit, as it is not capable of maintaining the supremacy of the law and making independent and just decisions. The hollowness and meaninglessness of this lawsuit has been unconditionally proven by the truths we have told, the statements made by witnesses as well as other evidence presented by the defense in their high-quality speeches.

The start of the lynching campaign against NİDA was made obvious when during the first days of the arrests Mammad Azizov, Bakhtiyar Guliyev and Shahin Novruzlu were forced to sign completely slanderous texts, memorize them and then repeat those in front of the cameras after being subjected to physical violence and torture, when TV channels were continuously disseminating videos passed to them by the İnterior Ministry, when government spokespeople and members of parliament were making certain statements.

There were no doubts left as to these repressions being politically motivated after President Ilham Aliyev named us as criminals during the YAP assembly on June 7, 2013, when investigations were still ongoing and no valid court verdict was issued. This statement was the decision made regarding our fate. This decision framed further judicial investigation.

Under such conditions, we are aware of the fact that neither the state prosecutor, nor you, the judges, have any other options to pursue. Your responsibilities in the court are limited to acting in the role of notaries to legitimize this politically motivated order. Even if the law and consciousness demand you to act otherwise, you shall not dare to depart from this order. We should also mention that we are not the sole victims of the regime in this trial. Your appointment as the judge and the proscuter also makes you victims of this fabricated court case. Indeed, we behind bars and you at liberty are all hostages and victims in this big prison called Azerbaijan.

That’s why it is difficult to demand anything from you. How can one prisoner help another one?

We are not intended to go deeply through all the details of the case. Because it’s already obvious that even being pseudo case they didn’t manage to organize it more maturely and systematically. Nevertheless, we will rush through several issues.

Prosecution claims, we were arrested due to protest on March 10th . This is partly truth. Why partly and why truth? And why we shouldn’t regret for this?

Let’s begin from the very first  question. As to prosecution’s testimony, they imprisoned us due to our social activity and particularly for our activity in“NIDA” civic movement. But it was not because of action on10th of March. “NIDA” managed to involve mature and active youth in its circle. Then we hadn’t announced that we are totally opposite to the government. Meanwhile, the government was already against of us. Because this regime is enemy for active and valuable people who wants to spoil its plans about society’s being passive, villain, obedient and enslaved. And hence, the government is directly foe of the youth who are indicators of activism, motion and who are against of slavery. As we see, the government doesn’t chase us because we are criminals. Vice versa if we committed crime, we would be friend for this regime. Because they, themselves are of criminal nature. Thus, they didn’t arrest us not only because we protested death of our brothers on 10th of March, but also for our nonviolent struggle which is not forbidden by law.

Generally if there is any sign of tendency to the violence, the only reason is government for this. As the government creates unlawful conditions, people get more aggressed and want to revenge. Of course, it boosts violence bias. And being a movement we  did our best in order to prevent this and propagate nonviolent struggle. We gave numerous samples of world experience for nonviolent struggle being better than violence. However, we were ironically accused of violence. Our criminal case got its place in the top of ridiculous crimes of the world.

And shall we regret for these?!

We are arrested for and proud of requiring freedom for nation we are member of, for land we are residents of and for our service in sake of implementing rule of law, human rights within the country

Everyone’s clearly seen the torture and abasement that first 3 arrested activists have encountered. But unfortunately, court didn’t attempt even to investigate this. The court process is enough to eliminate these testimonies from the list of evidences. But of course independent and fair court could precisely evaluate and take necessary course in this way, not you!

Observers [of this trial] probably remember the testimony of Anar Abbasov, the main witness of the prosecution, whose addiction to drugs and mental problems could be seen without professional examination. His testimony could become a symbol of contradiction. He couldn’t describe the Venice café [where according to indictment, he witnessed activists’ discussion of the plan of violent actions], he didn’t even know what Nida! (exclamation) means, he couldn’t recognize people, whom, according to indictment he identified as participants of the violence-planning meeting, couldn’t remember anyone’s name, his testimony was bunch of nonsensical  words about Nida and Venice. That witness was in fact the best proof of our innocence.

The government accuses us for cooperation with foreign groups. Just imagine, accusation of using violence comes from the government, which came to power with a military coup, which used the arms ad violence against its own people including events of October 15-16, 2003,  assasinations of dozens of best thinkers, like Elmar Huseynov, Ziya Buniadov, Rafik Tagi. It comes from the government which has its own people’s blood on their hands. And yes, it is the irony of the history.

Unlike the YAP members who would trade off Azerbaijan’s interests to the foreign countries, who would do anything in order to maintain the dominance of the ruling party , we-NiDA activists have never been slaves of  Russian KGB, neither have we worshiped U.S. or European oil magnates’ money, or followed Iranian mullah’s and Turkishi Nurchu’s ways. NiDA activists are patriots ready to sacrifice their youth and lives for the sake of the nation without a slightest hesitation. Charges imposed on us are their own passports.

Having touched upon the foreign affairs issues, we would like to share our opinion on the case of the Ministry of National Security stealing  AZN 94,000 from Shahin Novruzlu’s father and calling it crime means. There were enough evidences provided by the witnesses at the hearing  that this money belonged to Shahin’s family. We will step aside a little bit now. September 12, 1980, junta that came to the power by military coup in Turkey, staying loyal to their methods  executed 17 years old Erdal Eren. A great republic with 100  years of history like Turkey still is not able to clear the stain called Erdal Eren. After 33 year, in Azerbaijan Erdal’s peer Shahin is being accused by YAP, and loyal to their values they stole Shahin’s father’s money. The military men do what they are used to – kill, YAP members do what they are used to do – theft.

The governments are temporary, however, be sure of the fact that Shahin’s arrest and theft of his family’s, in particular his aunt’s hard-earned  money will remain over Azerbaijan’s shoulders like the Sword of Damocles, and we as a nation and a country in general will always be ashamed of it.

Two of us have been charged with hooliganism because of a simple dance. However, this dance doesn’t have any signs of hooliganism, not to mention any criminal case. This has been proven by the evidences provided and the defense speeches. Therefore, in our final speech we would rather talk about main reasons of the arrests than the legal aspects. The objective of introducing this article to our case is to present us as “immoral” to the society. This is precisely why the host of the disgraceful  Lider TV, who has previously presented pornographic scenes shot by secret cameras, now misinformed public by making fun of  our (deliberately misrepresenting facts as if eight people sitting here are in fact the eight people who are seen on the Harlem Shake video)  alleged participation in the dance. However, despite their cheap and meaningless efforts, the dance can not be considered as immoral. Immorality is to steal or sell parliamentary seats, falsify the elections, be an oligarch or rip of the nation of its last piece of bread. The fight against this immorality is the most honorable, glorious and moral job to do.

Our court case with each of its detail has denounced the government and showed its real face. Please pay closer attention to the above mentioned witness, Anar Abbasov. He is a bright example of the zombie population that Aliyev’s regime was trying to bring up for the last 21 years. This “new Azerbaijani” should be a coward and sinful, his morality must be shaded with slavery and laudation, when the moment calls he should be able to slander even his own brother, he should be corrupted not daring to stand against even a slight injustice. with a life credo of adulation and hypocrisy. In the past 21 years, the ruling party was considerably successful with their mission of creating this “new breed of Azerbaijanis”.

Soljenitsin in his “Live Not By Lies” wrote about despotic regimes’ dependence on everyone’s participation in the lies. He wrote that the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. This is what NIda does.

NiDA civil movement tried to resist and prevent a complete victory of this government’s policy. Our and other members’ ongoing arrests, openly demonstrated anger and irritation we have came across with prove that we are on the right track to hamper this policy. Our determined resistance,persistent position and taking the side of truth despite the virtues of being on the side of the government couldn’t have been met in any other way.

Something they do not realize, if there is an evil happening in one place, even if everyone turns their faces away, those with humanity have to face it. We as free men can not turn a blind eye on evil, immorality, and in general the government’s misdeeds, we only bow in front of the righteous power. The ideology of Republic sees it as an evil action to live under someone else’s despotic regime (will), because the slavery creates the worst of its consequences – state of vagrancy and adulation. We as true republicans, despite the dangers will not trade off freedom with comforts of slave lives!

Therefore, the regime’s police and other power structures’ violent and brutal actions disguised as “service to law”, presenting  our constitutional right of freely gathering as a riot, calling our peaceful struggle a violent act, our fabricated arrests do not scare us and will not make us revert from our position. The clarity of our fundamental principles, and our loyalty to them, our complete rejection of radicalism, immorality and violence are the reasons why hundreds of people with similar ideology joined our cause in the course of the past year.

As mentioned earlier, our participation in this court is a mere formality. Our plea to be acquitted from the falsified criminal charges is also a formality. As we are confident that acquittal will come not from the court but from our people and history. There is another reason for coming to the court and giving the “final speech”. We value the court system as a foundation of the state and guaranty of society’s justice.We respect and honor the splendor carried  in the word- court. Therefore, despite the fact that our court is far from this criteria, as a respect to the judge and the court we are obeying the formal procedures and continue to strive to do so.

The final word is yet to be uttered. The final word will soon or later come from the nation that stands for the arrested 10 [ means eight Nida activists in this case+Abdul Abilov and Omar Mammadov – two Facebook prisoners facing trumped up drug charges] NiDA activists, and our counterparts.

Ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, was brought to court under the accusation that he was poisoning the thoughts of the youths.  He could have left the country or accepted the proposal of staying silent, not spreading his ideas.  Otherwise, he knew that he would be executed.  At the trial, Socrates declared that he would not sacrifice the truth for his freedom and life, and chose death.  We, also, not while we’re free, nor while we are in jail, did not and will not sell the truth for anything.

We are not alone.  Our determined intellectuals and public figures – Chairman of “REAL” Ilgar Mammadov, Deputy Chairman of “Musavat” Tofig Yagublu, Yadigar Sadigov, Gurban Mammadov, Anar Mammadli, main representative of the believers in Azerbaijan Taleh Baghirzade, our falsely accused young friends Ebdul Ebilov, Omar Mammadov, Elsever Murselli, Rashad Ramazanli, journalists Rauf Mirgadirov, Perviz Heshimli and tenths more prisoners of conscience and political prisoners, are kept in jail specifically for the sake of the truth, under false accusations.  This government has to understand that, even if there is only one person in the country with conscience, he will continue the resistance against their atrocious anti-people politics, at the end, the victory will not belong to lies, but to the truth.

Even though we have reached a “development” in corruption which has no analogues, we know that, in the selection of the judges and prosecutors the exams are very hard.  Because of that, our judges and prosecutors, usually, have to possess some knowledge of law.  We do not doubt that the current panel of judges and the public prosecutor in front of us also possess a high degree of literacy.  This is also evident from the fact that, Azerbaijan’s strongest lawyers are defending us and specifically you have been chosen to go against them, the political order of making a case for these absurd allegations has been given specifically to you.

The ultimate aim of law is justice.  You, also, possess the qualifications to professionally determine justice.  It is impossible for you not to see that these allegations are frivolous and this, we are sure, that you do not doubt.  Because of that, it will be very hard for you to give us our sentence.  Because the trial of conscience that comes forward from the honor of one’s profession and humanity is harder that the trial of this sort.  Despite this, comfortableness will conquer conscience and you will read out our conviction.   For this reason, we do not ask anything of you.  Quite opposite, in order to calm your conscience, to give you comfort, we are letting you know that the years that are being taken from our lives with your sentence are not going to waste.  It is a capital investment for the freedom of Azerbaijan. So, even though you may be an anti-hero, you are also doing some things for this country.

When we started this road we took into consideration that we are the capital investment for freedom.  Now, can we be sorry for the accusations, for the thoughts and actions which we did not commit?!

We declare once again, that we are confident and you should be confident, that because of our desire for freedom for this nation of which we are part of, this region of which we are resident, because freedom, democracy, rule of law are of highest value and the rights and freedoms of the citizens of this country should be respected, because of our efforts in this sphere we have been arrested and of this we are proud.

From our friends, peers, and specifically from our parents we ask that they be ready for a heavy sentence and not to give way to hysteria, damnation, or insults.  In this courtroom, aside from the foreigners, everyone is a victim, and for one victim to curse out another victim is inconsequential and meaningless.

To everyone who took part in defending us, including those who share in our beliefs, to our family that is always with us, to little Araz, to our lawyers who selflessly defended us, we say thank you.  As well as, to the local and international human rights organizations, parties, and other organization, to foreign states and their embassies working towards restoring our rights, we express our gratitude. We are grateful to the representatives of foreign embassies and international organizations who have participated in our trial for a half a year, because they also proved that the Western principals which we have been defending consist not of oil, geostrategic materialistic interest, but of freedom and justice.

Lastly, from here we want to reach out to the N!DA fighters outside.  During the Soviet times, a 7-member organization called “Ildirim” [“Thunder”], of which all 7 members were jailed for their anti-Soviet efforts, its member, Ismikhan Rahimov, after his sentence was read, while being placed in a vehicle turned to his relatives and said: “We are leaving, but we will be back.”

Now, we are delivering to you the words of Sir Ismakhan in another format:  We are not going anywhere and coming back.  Because we exist anyway, we are here, with you. Even if 10 members of N!DA are in jail, those of you who are free are replacing us.  Continue this fight in our place with even more principal and even more consistently.  Do not ever surrender to slander! Hold your heads high, your wills strong!

Down with dictatorship and despotism!

Long live the people who do not bow to oppression and injustice!

Rashadat Akhundov

Rashad Hasanov

Uzeyir Mammadli

Zaur Gurbanli

Ilkin Rustamzade

Bakhtiyar Guliyev

Shahin Novruzlu

Mammad Azizov

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