Grave Confusion in Criminal Court

”It became evident that the victims in Rasul Jafarov’s case were either unaware of why they were victims or directly stated that the accused person never did them any harm”. The past months international observers have been attending the trial of Azerbaijani human rights activist, Rasul Jafarov, in Baku Court on Grave Crimes.

Jafrov has been in detention, since August 2014, awaiting trial. Here are some of the witness accounts from observers organised by Human Rights House Tbilisi. 

Victim morally damaged by victimisation

On 24 February, a victim, whose property was rented by Jafarov’s office, stated that Jafarov paid the whole rent to him. They had even signed a rent agreement, but the victim could not recall if his signature appeared on the document. He said his wife was in charge of all the arrangements and she received the rent payments too.

The lawyers got interested and asked: “if Jafarov paid the whole rent, how did you then become a victim?”

The victim replied that he did not experience any material damage at all, but he was summoned to the prosecutor’s office three times for interrogations. Now he has to make testimonies to the court that morally damages him. The lawyers suggested he should apply to the prosecutor’s office with the complaint. 

The citizen was speaking in a low voice and the people sitting in the hall heard only fragments from his speech. The audience learned from his statement that there are some misunderstandings in the status of the victim. Rasul Jafarov’s lawyers were trying for a long time to clarify why this person was called as a victim in the case, but all they got for an answer was reprimanded by the judge for asking the same question several times. 

How did I become a victim?

Another victim, Nijat Imranli, got anxious during the trial and spoke in an angry tone to the prosecutor: “Could you explain why I am called as a victim in this case? Rasul Jafarov has not done me any harm at all. I told the preliminary investigation the same, but you still wrote that I was victimised!” Imranli was speaking so loudly, that the judge rebuked him and requested him not to speak angrily and in a loud voice.

Nijat Imranli said he participated in the project Art for Democracy. More precisely he wrote the scenario for the video-roll and sent it to Rasul Jafarov via email. The contract was signed in two copies and afterwards he received reimbursement for the scenario. Imranli said he could not recall the exact amount of the reimbursement. He confirmed he had signed the contract and said he has definitely received the amount of money that was written in the contract. 

Unlawfully prosecuted

On 5 March, another hearing was held in the case of Rasul Jafarov, in the Baku Grave Crimes Court. The hearing continued with witness testimonies. The first witness to testify was Shahvalad Chobanoglu. He began his testimony saying:

“Rasul Jafarov has not committed any crime. But I witnessed another crime that was committed against Rasul Jafarov”.

The public prosecutor protested: “This is not a rally platform and you need to talk on the merits”.

Chobanoglu said that he had moderated a film festival under a project and was paid 100 manats (about 85 Euros).

“I received 100 manats as indicated on the receipt and signed the documents. I confirmed it during the investigation. Investigating the 100-manats matter in such a way shows that Rasul Jafarov has been unlawfully prosecuted,” said Chobanoglu in his testimony.

The judge asked his if he is a professional moderator. Chobanoglu said that he is a journalist by profession, working in the field of human rights, therefore has moderated a number of events related to human rights. 

Fist full of manats

Testifying as a witness, Ulvi Hasanli said that his organization Azad Genjlik (Free Youth) organisation voluntarily helped Rasul Jafarov with organising a film festival.

“In that film festival, Seymur Bayjan participated as an expert, but as he did not have a taxpayer number it was impossible to make documentation. Therefore, I asked Hamid Khalilov to sign a receipt. I gave the 300 manats that Rasul had given to me to Seymur Bayjan, but the tax and social insurance payment to Hamid Khalilov,” said Hasanli.

Being asked by the public prosecutor “Do you know Seymur Verdizade?” Ulvi Hasanli said, “Yes, I have worked with Seymur. Seymur also moderated a film festival. I gave him 150 manats, because I had to pay others as well. I told him that I would give 50 manats later. But he said he did not need it. I have also shown in my statement provided to the investigation that Rasul Jafarov had given me the amounts indicated in the documents and I have gave them to those persons,” said Ulvi Hasanli.

Hamid Khalilov, another witness, agreed with the Hasanlis recounts of the arrangement.

“Ulvi Hasanli asked me to sign the receipt, because he did not have a taxpayer identification number and it was impossible to document the money received for the provided service. I agreed. Ulvi gave me 36 manats for tax and social insurance payment, which I paid accordingly and signed the receipt for 300 manats and gave him,” said Khalilov.

In response to the prosecutor’s question “Were there other documents?” Hamid Khalilov said, “I do not remember exactly but perhaps there were an act and a contract”.

Ali Novruzov, who testified as a witness, said that he participate in the film festival and was paid 100 manats as agreed and signed relevant documents. Ali Novruzov showed the court the receipt, contract, act of delivery and proofs of payment of tax and social payment for the received amount that proved the provided service.

Trying to register 

Testifying as a witness, Elchin Sadigov said that in 2006, he created an NGO together with his friend, but could not manage the organization as he was working as a lawyer.

“I repeatedly faced fines for failing to file tax reports on time, despite our organization was not operating. Therefore I wanted to give the organization to a person who could manage it and I told this to my friends. Rasul suggested that he could manage the organisation. We agreed. Rasul Jafarov was elected the chairman of the organization and we sent the documents to the Ministry of Justice for registration. The documents were sent back once, then we sent again but this time there was no response. There were two projects based on project proposals written by Rasul Jafarov. I signed the grant contract and these contracts were translated, certified by notary and sent to the Ministry of Justice for registration. As far as I know, the Ministry has not sent any letter of rejection,” said Elchin Sadigov.  

The judge said that since it is four witnesses left, there will be another hearing on 12 March, at 10:30 am.

 Rasul Jafarov was arrested on 2 August, on charges of illegal entrepreneurship (Article 192 of the Criminal Code), tax evasion (Article 213) and abuse of office (Article 308). His detention term was extended by 3 months on October 23.  On 12 December, additional charges were brought against Jafarov under Articles 179.3.2 (embezzlement) and 313 (service forgery). If convicted of these charges, Rasul Jafarov face a sentence up to 12 years in prison. Amnesty International has recognized Rasul Jafarov as a prisoner of conscience.

The case against Rasul Jafarov

Rasul Jafarov founded Human Rights Club and was the organiser of the campaigns “Sing for Democracy” and “Art for Democracy.”

Azerbaijan General Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal case against him in May 2014.

On 7 July, his bank accounts were frozen. On 25 July, travel ban was imposed.

On 2 August, having arrived at the interrogation as a witness, his status was changed and he got arrested. He was sentenced to three-month pre-trial detention.

He is accused of illegal entrepreneurship, evasion from the payment of taxes, abuse of professional power, misappropriation of other’s property and fabrication of documents.

Rasul Jafarov faces charges that might result in 12 years imprisonment. 

Article about the first hearings in Jafarovs trial

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