A satirical YouTube video showing a press conference by a blogger in a donkey costume was meant to make a point in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan. Instead, it got the activist and his associate behind bars. Now in jail and convicted of “hooliganism,” youth activists Emin Abdullayev and Adnan Hajizade hope that an appeals court will overturn their sentence next week. Both men (adopted by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience) can really use your help. Take action now!
A Voice of America editorial summarizes the case:
Human rights monitors and many members of the international community are concerned over an Azerbaijan court’s decision to imprison Azerbaijan youth leaders Emin Milli [Abdullayev] and Adnan Hajizade to prison terms of 2-and-a-half years and 2 years respectively.
Emin Milli [Abdullayev] is the co-founder of a youth group called Alumni Network. Adnan Hajizade is a coordinator of the OL!, or “To Be,” youth movement, which advocates non-violence and tolerance in Azerbaijan civil society. Both are on-line journalists using Internet sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for political and social commentary, sometimes critical of Azerbaijan authorities.
They were arrested and charged with so-called “hooliganism” after an altercation in a café in July, during which they were physically assaulted by 2 men who later claimed to be victims. Upon proceeding to the police station to report the attack, it was Milli [Abdullayev] and Hajizade who were arrested and charged.
In a story about former British prime minister Tony Blair’s recent visit to Azerbaijan, where he was paid a big fee for a speech without references to human rights abuses, The Telegraph gives more details about the video:
Another father upset by Tony Blair is Hikmet Hajizadeh, 56, a former ambassador to Russia. His son Adnan, 26, made a spoof film in which he and friends pretended to be government ministers who had bought donkeys from Germany for £12,000 each – a satirical swipe at official dishonesty which became a hit on YouTube. The slight was compounded by fact that the president’s [Ilham Aliyev's] nickname is ‘donkey’.
The international media has (finally) noticed Azerbaijan’s alarming authoritarianism. Human rights activists around the world are not silent either. Amnesty International’s Poland office alone has 10,000 handwritten letters for the bloggers.
If you want to have your part in giving a voice to Azerbaijan’s ‘donkey bloggers,’ take action at Amnesty International USA’s page.