Two Azerbaijani bloggers were sentenced to jail on Wednesday. Charged with "hooliganism", the pair were arrested shortly after posting a satirical video online which mocked the government's alleged purchase of a dozen - suspiciously priced - 41,000 dollar donkeys from Germany.
After already four months of detention, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli are now beginning sentences of two years, and two years six months, respectively. They were charged for fighting with a pair of men in a cafe in Baku, something which they immediately reported to the police as an unprovoked attack, but which led to their arrest the same day (8 July) and on November 11, their sentencing. The ruling has been condemned by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Hajizade is the founder of OL!, a web savvy youth movement which often ridicules the government. It was along with the group, which Milli is a member of, that the pair produced the following, now infamous, donkey video, which was posted on YouTube on 28 June.
Posted on OL!'s YouTube channel.
“It's obvious that Emin and Adnan are not guilty”
One of our Observers interviews Parvana Persiani, the girlfriend of Adnan Hajidaze and a fellow member of OL!, in Bucharest the day before the Nov. 11 hearing. This is an extract of the video he recorded. You can watch it in full here.
“A warning against youth activists from speaking out”
Onnik Krikorian is a photojournalist and blogger specialised in the Caucuses. He has been following the case of Hajizade and Milli on his blog .
Lots of countries in this region, including Armenia, continue to use Soviet-era practices and regulations to silence dissent. This ‘hooliganism' charge is normally used to jail journalists. The only difference here, is that it happened to two young activists because of something posted on YouTube.
Online media is becoming increasingly widespread in Azerbaijan, and the OL! youth movement used social and new media very efficiently and extensively. I think this case against Hajizade and Milli was pretty much a warning against youth activists from speaking out.
I think that when you have oil, pressure [from the OSCE and the public] really doesn't have much effect."