Last speech of Intigam Aliyev in the court

Dear judge and court attendees,

My distinguished lawyers touched upon the legal aspects of the criminal case launched against me with false accusations. I would like in my turn talk about the motives behind the criminal persecution, in other words, draw attention to real reasons of my arrest.

Trial that has been going on for 4 months once again proved that real reasons behind my arrest were not legal, but were about political motives – my legal and civic activism. I am a lawyer specialised mainly on political cases and have participated in hundreds of such cases throughout my 25 years long career.

I have lodged more than 300 complaints to European Court of Human Rights since 2001, a year when Azerbaijan entered juristiction of European Court of Human Rights. Most of these complaints are about violation of political rights. About 40 of these legal complaints turned out to be successful: Among these complaints there are 14 cases about 2005 parliamentary elections, including cases on freedom of association, right for not to be subjected to torture, due process of law, property and other rights.

Most of the complaints to European Court of Human Rights on political violations occured in 2010 parliamentary elections were lodged by me. At present about 30 of those complaints are either in communication or decisionmaking round. People I had represented in those cases are mainly disctinguished political party leaders, public figures and civil society activists. Complaints are about illegal election practices and violations, such as – election falsifications; use of administrative resources in favor of ruling party; buying out members of election comissions and voters; illegal interference of local executive power, police and other structures into the election process and other severe legal violations. There are many people from ruling party in national parliament, local and central executive structures, as well as MPs representing Azerbaijan in parliamentary assemblies of CoE and OSCE in whose favor 2010 parliamentary elections were falsified.

Government due to this and also in order to get rid of Council of Europe Comittee of Minister's oversight to future execution of those decisions made by European Court of Human Rights was trying very hard to take these complaints off the list of European court. We in our turn with our well founded arguments were obsructing government's claims on taking the election complaints off the list.

I also have to mention that government by taking certain obligations with unilateral statement in 2005 parliamentary elections managed to take several important elections complaints off the list of cases of European Court of Human Rights. At that time as a reaction to this we organized serious protest campaigns. Later government refused to fulfill those obligations. I and the organization I was leading were trying hard regarding implementation of court decisions on 2005 parliamentary elections – especially on taking general measures.

In our reviews addressed to Council of Europe Comittee of Ministers on execution of European Court's decisions we had mentioned that government was not fulffiling its obligations on improving elections legislation and application of it; that the action plan government had presented to comittee of ministers was not genuine, rather formal and we also had presented some recommendations on real implementation of decisions. Recommendations were on strengthening independence of election comissions and courts; improvement of procedures on reviewing election complaints; ensuring media and freedom of assembly; eliminate discrimination; creating equal opportunities for all the political parties and candidates.

Due to successful campaign we had conducted together with our partners Council of Europe Committee of Ministers in its June, 2014 meeting rejected the action plan Azerbaijani government had submitted on implementation of European court's decisions and gave time to Azerbaijani government to prepare new action plan.

My activities directed at European court, particularly my efforts on elections complaints played a significant role in my arrest. These public efforts of mine were irritating the authorities and several times I had been told that these activities would have undesirable consequences on me and our organization.

Officials of the prosecutor's office have without any documentation seized all the documents related to elections and more than 200 complaints on other violations I had lodged to European Court during search in our office. Most of these complaints carried strategic importance. Among the materials seized by the officials of prosecutor's office there were documents on more than 30 NGOs to whome Ministry of Justice had been for years illegally denying registration; documents of Election Monitoring Centre (was abolished on 2008 presidential elections eve) founded by political prisoner, Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli who has been recently released from jail; and documents of the center for Election Monitoring and Democracy Teaching (founded in 2010, but denied registration by Ministry of Justice).

By the way, cases I had raised against Ministry of Justice both in internal courts and European court; reports I had prepared; and my criticism in media, local and international events have played a certain role in Ministry of Justice's ill-intentioned attitude to me and to the organization I lead.

Officials of the prosecutor's office have also seized about 40 materials on court cases I and my organization were representing in local courts. Most of these cases were strategic cases about illegal intervention of central and local executive power structures' in political, social and economic rights of phsyical and legal entities.

Due to prosecutor's office illegal rejection of our claims on returning these documents to us 6 months period set for filing most of these cases to Eueopean Court have been missed.

Seizure of all the attorney files that have nothing to do with the charges pressed against me, also seizure of all the computers, notebooks, memory cards, CDs and other electronic equipments containing electronic versions of those documents; illegal rejection of claims for returning those documents and equipments after the investigation was over is one of the facts confirming that my arrest was also about my activities as a lawyer.

Part of those files were returned to us without any officiall procedures in a folder after the appeal of chairman of European Court to General Prosecutor during his visit to Baku. But most of the documents were about the cases that had already been reviewed in European Court. Only small part of court documents which were in proceedings of local and European court were returned. Serious issues occured in our communication with European court because prosecuter office took away some of the important documents which were in the folders they returned to us.

As I said in the beginning of my speech one of the reasons for my arrest is my civic activism. In the past years in local and international media outlets there have been published many articles, researches, interviews of mine on human rights situation in Azerbaijan, democracy and rule of law. I have also delivered speeches and lectures in many international conferences, forums, including in annual gatherings of CoE, European Union, United Nations, OSCE about different human rights issues in Azerbaijan such as – legal representation as a lawyer, freedom of assembly and association, free elections, right not to be subjected to torture, due process of law, topics related to political prisoners. I have heavily criticised government's role in occurence of these human rights issues in my speeches.

In June, 2014 summer session of Parliamentary Assembly of CoE – a day prior to the speech delivered by president Ilham Aliyev before the members of PACE regarding commencement of Azerbaijan's chairmanship to Committee of Ministers in the events organized for PACE members, CoE officials and media representatives I heavily criticised the government on deteriorating human rights situation, government's intensifying pressure on independent civil society organizations and international organizations cooperating with local NGOs, systemic crackdown on different political parties, independent media and NGOs and issue of political prisoners on the eve of its chairmanship to the Committee of Ministers. During the session I had also attended nonviolent protest actions organized by international human rights defending organizations, Azerbaijanis living abroad and group of Azerbaijani citizens had come to attend PACE's session from Baku.

Right after those events, a day later Ilham Aliyev in his speech before the members of PACE heavily criticised and expressed harsh words about opposition, human rights organizations and international organizations cooperating with them. Right after that speech pro governmental media outlets launched massive slandering campaign about the representatives of civil society organizations that had attended PACE session, including me. They were portraying us in media as traitors, enemies, 5th column of international community that is attempting to oberthrow the government by force.

Very shortly after the summer session of PACE – early in August I and Rasul Jafarov, who had attended the same events were arrested. Another NGO leader, Gulnara Akhundova who had attended the same events could save herself from persecution by fleeing the country despite the criminal case launched against her. Another NGO leader against whom was launched criminal case and issued arrest warrant found a shelter in Swiss embassy and thanks to this he is in semi freedom.

On august, 2014 shortly after our arrest Ilham Aliyev in his speech delivered in Beylagan before the youth and public figures after the opening ceremony of youth center confirmed that persecution of independent civil society organizations and their leaders was conducted with the blessing of country's ruling leadership. "Today not everybody accepts Azerbaijan's successful development. There are national traitors inside the country who have sold their conscience to foreign anti-Azerbaijan groups. We are aware of this. I am as a president in my daily work activities fighting against these national traitors." said Ilham Aliyev in his speech.

Similar statements and comments is frequently expressed by other high ranking government officials as well. For instance, head of the presidential administration Ramiz Mehdiyev brought clarity to the reasons of our arrest in his interview to "Vestnik Kafkaza" website in september of last year. "Some NGOs, such as Institute for Peace and Democracy (NGO lead by Leyla Yunus), Institute for Reporter's Freedom and Security (NGO lead by Emin Huseynov), Legal Education Society (NGO lead by me), Democracy Monitoring and Teaching Center (NGO lead by Anar Mammadli) and others under the cover of human rights protection have been receiving money from international organizations and spending this money on writing reports to different centers and organizing anti-Azerbaijan campaigns in organizatons Azerbaijan is officialy represented" said Ramiz Mehdiyev.

By the way, recent anti west rhetoric of the government is raising some questions: If the west, Europe is enemy of Azerbaijan, then why our country is still holding it's membership to CoE, OSCE, other international organizations and conventions; why huge amount of money from state budget is being spent on renovation of museums and historical sights, building of non historical sights, organizing expensive song contests under European "flag", sports events and different tournaments; why are we selling oil and gas to Europe; why are we holding substantial portion of our currency reserves in european banks?!

If Europe isn't Azerbaijan's enemy why are we then arresting those who are pro euro integration, closing their organizations; kicking out of the country well known european, western organizations, not letting their members into the country and slandering them?!

How is this possible that Europe, West becomes our friend when it is supporting the falsified elections and is bad when softly reacts (nothing beyond resolutions and statements) to politically motivated arrests, repression on civil society; and when it reminds Azerbaijani government about obligations it has taken on human rights and democracy areas?!

By the way, in 2013, winter session of PACE during the discussion of political prisoners issue Europe's demonstrated support to the government by rejecting existence of political prisoners in our country was serious blow to the solution of this problem and to civil society. Democratic countries of Europe voted for the resolution that justifies arrest of politicians, journalists, civic activists for their political views and different opinions in order to ensure that their own citizens are supplied with gas and energy. I cannot say if political prisoners issue would have been solved should this resolution had not passed, but what I can say for sure that Azerbaijani government motivated from adoption of this resolution strengthened repressions towards civil society, injailed many people with false accusations.

Repressions skyrocketed during Azerbajan's chairmanship of Committee of Ministers of CoE. Dozens of local organizations and several international organizations (NED, IREX, Oxfam, Norwegian Human Rights House Foundation, Marshall Fund and etc) became targets of criminal charges; their bank accounts were put under arrest, taxation and prosecutor offices started investigating their activities, most of the NGOs were fined, dozens of activists had to flee the country in order to avoid persecution.

With these criminal charges government has been conveying a message to those NGOs that have stayed in country and on which fear of arrest is hanging like the sword of democles that any time each of those NGOs can be accused in tax evasion, misappropriation of funds, illegal enterpreneusrship, hooliganism and high treason.

Now we can be sure that there is no independent civil society in the country, it has been destroyed, there are only dissidents who can any time get arrested.

In this situation solution of political prisoners issue looks very dim. The reason of this is not just the fact that people dealing with this issue are in jail or facing arrest. The reason is also related to political system: in a country where division of power, political pluralism, free media, free and fair elections, independent courts, strong legal advocacy and civil society organizations are absent political prisoner problem will always be pressing issue. Azerbaijan lacks all of the above. Fabricated working groups, rapporteurs that have become advocates of the government and pardons that for years have been subject for tradeoffs cannot solve this issue. We have to understand this ourselves and also tell others about this.

Getting released from prison is everybody's wish. But when I think that the lists get emptied based on the will of one person and tomorrow again based on the will of that one person that list will be filled at the expense of our freedom wanting children, loved ones, friends then it seems very difficult for me to carry the weight of this freedom.

State prosecutor requested 10 years of jail term for me. I reacted by saying "I am lucky that it ended like this". I was quite serious.

In this country thinking different; defending the rights of critical media, journalists, politicians and youth activists, victims of property rights violations, people that have been subjected to torture in police stations and prisons in local courts and addressing the complaints on violations to international courts; protesting against soldier deaths in non combat situation in the army, corruption, monopoly, price increase; teachers and doctors paid 150-200 manats salary, most of the population living below poverty level, high unemployment rate; protesting against spending 50-60 million on flower holiday (May 10) in a country which still has villages that are not supplied with gas, water and proper roads, spending billions on expensive projects – music and sports contests, conducting monitoring of elections and human rights violations, preparing reports criticising government's policies, conducting research, writing articles, preparing list of political prisoners, demanding the release of political prisoners, raising this issue inside the country and in internationall events is considered a crime.

I confess that I have committed these type of "crimes" and by this have seriously damaged reputation and interests of the government and have poured water into the mills of our enemies. In this sense prosecutor's request for 10 years of jail term is not much.

One of the inspectors that was very actively and diligently investigating my and the case of other NGOs said the following to my daughter: "Ask your father when you get a chance that he regularly criticises the government in international events, given that his words really make difference in international arena why didn't he at least once raise Karabakh issue in those events." This accusations are very often made towards me and my friends, therefore I have tell my opinion on this. Just like many others I also think that solution of Karabakh conflict depends first of all on democratisation process, protection of human rights, free and fair elections and active participation of people in decisionmaking process in both of the countries. We have raised these issues both internally and internationally, therefore today we are under arrest.

But I have no regrets neither about my activities, nor about my arrest. If God allows I intend to continue doing these activities from prison and after being released. Arrests can deprive us of our freedom, but not of our desire for freedom. Free person is free everywhere.

Tofiq Yagublu, Ilgar Mammadov, Yadigar Sadiqli and my dear friends who are not in prison are saying the same things and writing the same things they did when they were in freedom now from prison.

Neither prison and nor cells can break the will of Ilkin Rustamzade, Rashad Hasanov, Rashadat Akhundov and other young friends of ours.

Just the arrest of Leyla Yunus is her act of calling the government for fighting.

Even the iron doors of Gobustan Closed Detention Facility can not silence the outcry for justice of Movsum Samadoghlu, Abgul Suleymanov, Taleh Baghirzade and Nemat Panahli.

Seymur Hazi's speech in his trial was not less powerful than the speeches he delivered for "Azerbaijan hour".

Power of what Khadija Ismayil can not say and write due to strict censorship is not weaker than what she was writing and saying when she was in freedom.

No need to be upset about my arrest. Our arrest is one of the tools of our struggle for freedom.

At the end by using this opportunity I would like to greet all of my friends who are in jail. I am proud of you and this is an honor for me to share prison life with you!

Every dark night is followed by morning with light. Life in cocoon is dark. It seems like there is no way out of that darkness. But in reality, in that darkness there is a process of caterpillar turning into butterfly. When the time comes, for sure darkness will turn into lightness, stagnation will turn into freedom and the butterfly will come out.

I am expressing my endless gratitude to those who are in freedom, but are risking their lives and freedom in their struggle for our cause and for our children to live in just society.

Expressing my gratitude to the governments, international organizations, colleagues abroad and to the ordinary people who have been supporting us. This support means a lot for us. They are the targets of cruel accusations of Azerbaijani government for this support. Human rights isn't just an internal issue of one country, it is universal value.

I am especially grateful to my lawyers for defending my rights. Participation in political cases in this country is equal to criminal activity.

In normal countries people are expressing their gratitude to state prosecuter and to college of judges. To my regret I won't be able to do the same. State prosecutor has requested 10 years of jail term for me, most likely the judge will fulfill prosecutor's request. In this case the saying usually is "Let God do to you what you did to others!" But I don't even intend to use this saying. Because I think the reason for all these disgraceful actions committed in the name of law and justice is the system. I wish you to live in a just society, a society in which accusing innocent people and judging them is dishonorable behavior.

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