Saturday, July 11, 2009

Victims jailed and the guilty parties walk

Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada have been sentenced to two months "pre-trial investigative detention." Presumably this is for investigation into the incident where they were both assaulted and seriously injured. Confused? You should be.

There is a movie called Absurdistan. Azerbaijan is perceived to be the model for the fictional country. It is such incidents that cause such perceptions. Yes, if you are assaulted in Azerbaijan, you will be jailed and your assailant will go free.

Of course, this is the case if you are a trouble-making activists like Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada. Emin Milli was agitating on the Internet, using Facebook to get the word out about protests and the conditions in Azerbaiajan. Adnan Hajizada was one of the founders of OL Youth group. This group also used the Internet to publicize the problems that young people in Azerbaijan face. Radio Free Liberty has an article about the case. Global Voices and Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines write about the case as well.

Officials from the US Embassy & the Norwegian Embassy are objecting to the persecution of the activists - but I don't hold much hope that external pressure will change things. To me, the case is a reminder that even authoritarian governments are not monolithic. Within the power structure, there may be different elements that have different agendas. Some people in Azerbaijan breathed a sigh of relief last month, when legislation concerning NGOs was not as restrictive as feared. As it was - it is plenty restrictive - but perhaps it was less than some hard liners wanted. Here is an example of the hard line elements in the government taking off their gloves - and showing human rights activists - and the populace in general - that they better not make noise about the thieves who are running their country.