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Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Grilled Over Bloggers Case

This video offers a good snapshot of the tone of the seminar, at least the part dealing with the case of the bloggers.

We here at the "Watchdog" blog have been intently following the case of the Azerbaijani bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada. The two are on trial in Baku on charges of hooliganism after a scuffle at a Baku restaurant.

The two men say the charges are politically motivated due to their criticism of Azerbaijani authorities, including the referendum on changes to the country's constitution in March.

Rights groups have criticized the case, as well, expressing their "profound concern" in an open letter to President Ilham Aliev earlier this month.

So when Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov appeared at a seminar at Columbia University in New York on September 22, students, activists, and journalists (including RFE/RL's Baku bureau chief Khadija Ismayilova) used the rare opportunity to question him intensively about the case.

Though the case has received international attention, Mammadyarov said he hasn't been following the trial and denied any knowledge of alleged irregularities in the investigation. He said the most important thing is for the trial to be impartial and for observers not to make judgments before the trial is concluded. And he 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 Council of Europe. He said any assessment of Azerbaijan's commitments should be made of the "overall situation" in the country.

" or two issues out of context is not helpful," he said.

(by Grant Podelco)

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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