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Families of Jailed Bloggers Appeal to Obama

Azerbaijan -- Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli in appeal hearing, Baku, 22Dec2009

Azerbaijan -- Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli in appeal hearing, Baku, 22Dec2009

Relatives of two Azerbaijani bloggers jailed in a case condemned by rights groups have appealed to U.S. President Barack Obama to press for their release during talks with Azerbaijan's leader Ilham Aliyev.

The families of Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli, jailed last year, issued an open letter to Obama asking him to raise the case during talks with Aliyev scheduled for September 24 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

In their appeal to the President, the families wrote,"Your opinion, representing the principled position of the world's most powerful democracy, would be a strong voice in defence of free speech and fairness, and play a crucial role in this case.

"Please remember these youth activists, punished solely for their aspirations to see their own country advance on the path of liberty and progress and join the community of free nations."

Hajizada, a video blogger and member of the opposition OL! movement, and activist and blogger Milli, were jailed in November 2009 for 24 and 30 months for hooliganism after an alleged brawl in a cafe.

Their supporters say they were victims of an unprovoked attack, imprisoned as a warning to other activists after posting a satirical swipe at the authorities in which Hajizada held a fake news conference dressed as a donkey.

Rights groups say the charges were fabricated and the trial flawed. The U.S. and European governments have also protested the case.

Written with Reuters reporting.