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Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Rejects Criticism Of Bloggers Case


Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov

NEW YORK -- Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov says that the trial of two jailed bloggers must be allowed to run its course before it can be criticized, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Mammadyarov made his comments on September 22 at New York's Columbia University, where he appeared at a seminar.

Students, activists, and journalists used the opportunity to question Mammadyarov about the case of young bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada, who have been jailed in pretrial detention since July.

The two are being tried in Baku on charges of hooliganism and intentional physical harm after a scuffle at a restaurant.

Milli and Hajizada say the charges against them are politically motivated because of their criticism of Azerbaijani authorities, including their opposition to a referendum to change the country's constitution that was held in March.

Rights groups have also criticized the case against the bloggers, expressing their "profound concern" in an open letter to President Ilham Aliyev earlier this month.

Though the case has received international attention, Mammadyarov said he hasn't been following the trial closely and denied any knowledge of alleged irregularities in the case.

He said the most important thing is for the trial to be impartial and for observers not to make judgments before it is concluded.

Mammadyarov chastised one questioner for "politicizing the issue, which is absolutely unacceptable."

He said Baku is "implementing" and "moving forward" with its promised rights commitments to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe.

He said any assessment of Azerbaijan's commitments should be made only of the "overall situation" in the country and "picking...one or two issues out of context is not helpful."
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