Journalist Polad Aslanov was accused in “high treason”

Baku City Sabayil District Court



Case #4 (009)-361/2019

June 14, 2019

Judge:
Azer Tagiyev

Defendant: Polad Aslanov

Defender: Elchin Sadiqov

Senior investigator for special important cases  of the Main Investigation Department  of the State Security Service: Javid Quluzade

Prosecutor of General Prosecutor’s Office: Elshad Azimov

On April 12, 2018, the founder and chief editor of the following websites www.xeberman.com and www.press-az.com 29 years old Polad Aslanov, who had serious health problems, was detained by persons in civilian clothes and forced to serve military service. On April 04, 2019, Polad Aslanov finished his service, and returned to journalism.

On June 13, 2019, State Security Service spread information on its webpage (http://www.dtx.gov.az/news381.php) that P. Aslanov was detained under accusation of “high treason”. The information states that P. Aslanov met with the representatives of special services outside the country, passed secret information to them, took money from them, and signed receipts that he received money. Besides, P. Aslanov, by order of international special services, wrote articles to the prejudice  of State Security and Defence Ability of Azerbaijan.

On June 14, 2019,  Sabayil District Court made a decision to choose preventive measure against Polad Aslanov in form of arrest for a period of 4 months.

On July 3, 2019, Polad Aslanov’s lawyer Elchin Sadiqov faced with a pressure from investigation.  High rank officials of law enforcement agencies blackmailed E. Sadiqov and demanded from him to drop journalist’s defence.  E. Sadiqov  wrote about this at his Facebook page. E. Sadiqov reacted to pressure with a written appeal to authorities. He asked to secure his independent functioning. Few days later, investigator, who initially leaded journalist’s case, was replaced by another investigator.

Commentary by expert lawyer:

Court decision is unlawful and groundless.  The arrest - the most harsh restrictive measure was chosen against defendant.  A restrictive measure is a coercive procedural measure intended to prevent unlawful behaviour by the suspect or accused during criminal proceedings and to ensure the execution of the sentence; it shall be applied in the cases described in Article and 154.1 and  155.1of the Code on Criminal Procedure of the AR.

The Code of Criminal Procedure provides several types of restrictive measures (Article 154): arrest, house arrest, bail, restraining order, personal surety, surety offered by an organisation, police supervision, placing minor under supervision, military observation, removal from position.

Grounds are the most important, when it comes to choosing preventive measure. The analysed decision indicates following grounds:


- the seriousness and nature of the offence;

- the degree of social danger;

- detention in result of operative-search activities;

- the possibility to hide from the investigation;

- essence of the crime that reflects itself in a damage of sovereign integrity, inviolability of AR;

- the possibility to commit new crime;

- the possibility to obstruct the normal course of investigation


Let’s refer now to Article 155.1 of the Code of the Criminal Procedure of the AR, which provides the full and exhaustive grounds for the application of restrictive measures:
- 155.1.1. hidden from the prosecuting authority;
- 155.1.2. obstructed the normal course of the investigation or court proceedings by illegally influencing parties to the criminal proceedings, hiding material significant to the prosecution or engaging in falsification;
- 155.1.3. committed a further act provided for in criminal law or created a public threat;
- 155.1.4. failed to comply with a summons from the prosecuting authority, without good reason, or otherwise evaded criminal responsibility or punishment;
- 155.1.5. prevented execution of a court judgment.
As may be seen, the court presented the grounds in its decision that are not provided by Article 155.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the AR. Besides, all the grounds presented by court must be sufficiently and concretely proven. However, it is not seen from the court’s decision whether investigation has evidences and what the primary evidences are.

International legislation prohibits arbitrary arrest. According to Article 5 (1) of European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms:
1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:
c)  the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or eeing after having done so;
European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms requires the legality of any deprivation of liberty.
Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also secures the protection of citizen from arbitrary arrest. Thus, it is stated in Article 9 (1): Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.


Domestic and international legislation requires to have reasonable suspicion for the arrest. The precedents of European Court on Human Rights also speak about this.  The judgement on case  of Labita v. Italy from April 6, 2000 states that: “For there to be reasonable suspicion there must be facts or information which would satisfy an objective observer that the person concerned may have committed an offence”. (para. 155 of judgement) https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#{"fulltext":["Labita%20v.%20Italy"],"documentcollectionid2":["GRANDCHAMBER","CHAMBER"],"itemid":["001-58559"]}

Court did not check arguments on why the restrictive measure in form of arrest cannot be applied towards Polad Aslanov. As can be seen from above mentioned norms of domestic and international law, Polad Aslanov’s right to liberty was violated, and court passed illegitimate verdict and arrested journalist to 4 months in prison.
INSTITUTE FOR PEACE AND DEMOCRACY