Baku’s Court on Grave Crime in Azerbaijan has illustrated itself this week; it held 5 hearings in the case against Anar Mammadli, Bashir Suleymanli and Elnur Mammadov, and convicted the youth activists from the movement NIDA to 6 to 8 years.
Anar Mammadli is brought into the courtroom with high-level guards, including at least three military guards. One would believe he is accused of some kind of violent crime. He must be a terrible fellow, you think when he is brought into the courtroom, unable to contain himself of screaming, fighting and attacking anybody next to him. Anar Mammadli is nothing of the kind; he is certainly the gentlest and the funniest of his detention facility, and I would immediately bet that since his arrest he is informing and educating his co-detainees about their rights and about prison condition standards.
The military guards, standing next to him in the courtroom when not sitting between him and his lawyer, aim at giving an image of the accused, which has nothing to do with him.
The security surrounding the accused person is just alike the questioning of witnesses by the judge — nonsense.
At the hearing against Mammadli and his colleagues the judge indeed runs the inquisition against the human rights defenders.
He compares witnesses not remembering events of 2007 with dogs who also are supposedly not having any memory, he insults witnesses not willing to simply testify against Mammadli & Co., he dismisses objections from lawyers of Mammadli against qualifying them as a “criminal organisation” already at the stage of the hearings, he eructs at representatives from foreign embassies not willing to give their mobile phones to the court officials, although others are allowed to keep the mobile phones with them.
At a few moments, the lawyers of the accused attempt to use the rights usually granted to the defense. Impermissible excess — the judge immediately shuts it down: “You do not have the right to confront the judge’s questioning” he shouts — and I use the verb “shouting” intentionally and specifically to describe it. Mammadli’s lawyer indeed questioned the hypothetical question put by the judge to one of the so-called “victims” brought to the court, asking whether the “victim” believes there could be documentation indicating that he received a payment from Anar Mammadli’s NGO with the “victim’s” signature although he has been telling the court he does not know anything about the NGO or the accused human rights defenders…
Whilst the main judge eructs, shouts and finger-points, the two other judges scratch their necks, rub their eyes and stand head in hands.
And you wonder, witnessing it all, whether it is Benny Hill or a parody of a courtroom by the writers of Boston Legal and Ally McBeal!
You know how it will end; one more innocent human rights defender behind bars in Azerbaijan — but no worries, the international community is supporting capacity building of judges in the country…
The article was originally published on 5 November 2014 here.