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Baku Official Slams 'Bias' Over Blogger Verdicts

An official in Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's administration says the international community's reaction to the case of two bloggers given jail sentences last week is biased, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Ali Hasanov, head of the Azerbaijani president's Social and Political Affairs Department, said Azerbaijani law "applies equally to everyone and there is no special treatment for intellectuals and those who are closer to the West, like the bloggers."

A Baku court on November 11 sentenced Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli to two and 2 1/2 years in prison, respectively, on hooliganism charges for an altercation at a Baku restaurant on July 8.

International organizations such as the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have strongly condemned the case and said the charges against the bloggers are politically motivated.

Hasanov said the Azerbaijani courts are independent and the government cannot influence judicial verdicts. He added that "if the bloggers disagree with the court's verdict, they can take their case to the European Court of Human Rights."

Hasanov said many Azerbaijanis are charged with hooliganism every year but international organizations do not protest against those convictions.

He countered that "the state of freedom of speech in Azerbaijan is not worse than that in France, Germany, and Italy."