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Azerbaijan15 July 2008

Court convicts wrong man of knife attack on newspaper reporter

A court in the Baku district of Nasimi today sentenced Sergei Strekalin to 18 months in prison for a 13 March knife attack on Azadlig reporter Agil Khalil although Khalil insisted throughout the trial that Strekalin was not his assailant and that the trial had been staged with the sole aim of discrediting him, Khalil.

“We deplore the fact that the investigation into Khalil’s attack led to Strekalin’s conviction and that Khalil’s real assailants were left alone,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This entire case was nothing but a sham designed to give the impression that the attack was sex-related although Khalil recognised security ministry employees among his assailants.

Strekalin was convicted under criminal code article 127.1 (deliberate injury) and article 234.1 (possession of drugs). Khalil insisted that the investigation was not objective and that Strekalin had not attacked him. When judge Shahin Abdullayev issued his verdict today, Khalil exclaimed: “Shame on this unfair court!”

Khalil and his lawyer said they would appeal against the verdict.


11 July 2008

Sham trial of journalist’s supposed assailant continues

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its condemnation of the trial of the supposed perpetrator of the 13 March stabbing of journalist Agil Khalil, which continued on 7 and 9 July before a Nasimi district court in Baku under judge Shahin Abdullayev. The court completed examination of witnesses and evidence, opening the way for the prosecutor to present his summing-up at the next hearing on 14 July. A verdict is expected by the end of the month.

“This is not an impartial trial and the defendant is not one of the persons who tried to murder Khalil in a knife attack on 13 March,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This trial is a farce that is being conducted with the double aim of protecting the real perpetrators and discrediting Khalil.”

The 7 July hearing focused on the fact that the defendant had drugs at his home and in his clothes. At one point, the defendant’s driver, Etibar Rasulov, was questioned by Khalil, who urged him not to lie. Asked if Khalil was in the defendant’s car on 13 March, he replied that he could not be sure if it was Khalil, only that it was someone with a “dark complexion.”

The judge rejected a request by Khalil’s lawyer, Elchin Sadygov, for the court to question three people who witnessed an early attack on Khalil on 22 February.

Material evidence gathered during the investigation was examined during the 9 July hearing. The court overruled objections from the defence, which questioned the reliability of some of the evidence including a CD-ROM supposedly containing a list of phone calls and messages sent from Khalil’s cellphone. The CD-ROM was accepted although it was provided by the national security ministry rather than the telecommunication’s company and did not have the latter’s stamp.

Meanwhile, in a parallel development on 9 July, a court in the Yasamal district of Baku examined a complaint by Khalil against Department of Serious Crimes inspector Ali Guliyev and TV stations that broadcast interrogations in which witnesses such as Sergei Strekalin alleged that Khalil had connections with the homosexual community and that the stabbing was linked to these connections.

The court rejected Sadygov’s request for a ban on the broadcasting of these interviews. Khalil is requesting public apologies, the right to respond on the TV stations to the allegations that conflict with his version of the 13 March stabbing, and 100,000 manats (15,000 euros) in damages. Members of the prosecutor’s office were sent summonses to attend the hearing but they did not turn up. The next hearing has been set for 23 July.


4 July 2008

Azadlig reporter forced to attend alleged assailant’s trial

Agil Khalil, a reporter for the daily Azadlig, was yesterday forced to attend the trial of Sergei Strekalin, a man who says he attacked Khalil with a knife on 13 March. Khalil insists that he was stabbed by two other persons who have not been unidentified.

Khalil’s lawyer, Elchin Sadygov, submitted a request for the suspension of Strekalin’s trial and for a new investigation. He also challenged the composition of the court.

When called to give evidence, Khalil said he had been forced to say he had a relationship with Strekalin. He repeated his earlier claim that investigators from the prosecutor office subjected him to physical and psychological pressure during interrogation on 4 and 5 April. He said they threatened to identify him as a homosexual if he did not accuse a fellow journalist of the stabbing. After he refused, several TV station’s broadcast the mysterious Strekalin’s claims on 7 April.

Strekalin testified that he knew Khalil and helped to arrange homosexual encounters for him, by introducing men to him, mostly in his own home. He added that he stabbed Khalil when Khalil insisted on having sex with him and one of his friends.

Khalil appealed to the prosecutor in court, urging him to “find those who really stabbed him.” The next hearing was set for 7 July.


2 July 2008

Journalist to be forced to attend trial of supposed assailant

Reporters Without Borders condemns a Baku court’s decision yesterday to order journalist Agil Khalil to attend the next hearing in the trial of a man accused of stabbing him on 13 March. Khalil says the man was falsely accused, and insists the attack was carried out by two unidentified men.

“The judge’s decision to force Khalil to attend his supposed assailant’s trial highlights how the authorities have refused to go after those who were really responsible for the knife attack against him,” the press freedom organisation said. “They are ready to use any lie and the most despicable methods, including trying to smear him by turning the matter into a vice case. We reiterate our support for Khalil.”

The trial of Khalil’s supposed assailant continued yesterday before a court in the Baku district of Nasimi without Khalil attending. At the prosecutor’s request, judge Shahin Abdullayev issued an order for Khalil to attend the next hearing on 3 July, if necessary by force.

National security ministry officials attacked Khalil on 22 February when they spotted him photographing them in the course of an illegal land transaction. After his photos were published, he was stabbed in the chest on 13 March and had to undergo an operation. A few days later, investigators began pressuring him to accuse fellow journalists of the stabbing and to say the attacks were sexually-motivated.


6 june 2008

Trial in reporter’s stabbing case called crude manipulation

Reporters Without Borders today accused the judicial authorities of a “crude manipulation” in the case of reporter Agil Khalil’s stabbing on 13 March. A Sergey Strekalin appeared before a Baku court yesterday on charges of stabbing Khalil and consuming drugs.

“Despite international criticism, the Azerbaijani authorities are still trying to discredit Khalil by turning this stabbing into a vice case,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Khalil blames interior ministry officials for the stabbing but the authorities never paid any attention to his version. We firmly condemn the way this case is being manipulated. This trial is a sham.”

Strekalin said at yesterday’s hearing that he gave his statement of his own free will. His lawyer did not speak. Neither Khalil nor Khalil’s lawyer, Elchin Sadygov, attended the hearing.

Khalil, who reports for the daily Azadlig, asked for a postponement because his lawyer was not available but prosecutor Eldar Gamzayev rejected the request on the grounds that it was just a preliminary hearing and Khalil’s presence was not necessary.

At the end of the hearing, presiding judge Shahin Abdullayev set the trial for 20 June.




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