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Jailed bloggers Emin Milli (left) and Adnan Hajizada
An Azerbaijani court has rejected an appeal by a jailed blogger seeking an early release from prison, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

A Baku district court said on July 26 that Adnan Hajizada -- who was sentenced in November along with fellow blogger Emin Milli after being found guilty of hooliganism -- should not be released from jail early because he has not admitted his guilt and did not exemplify good behavior since being imprisoned.

Defense lawyer Isakhan Ashurov appealed for Hajizada's early release after he served half of his two-year prison term. It is common in Azerbaijan for well-behaved prisoners convicted of lesser crimes to be released in such circumstances.

But prison officials Natig Hajiyev and Ali Nabiyev argued in court that Hajizada did not admit his guilt and although he spent most of his time reading and organizing intellectual activities in prison, he refused to paint some walls and clean the prison yard.

Hajizada said the claims by the prison officials were untrue and he did not believe the judge would release him, regardless of how good his behavior was in jail.

Hajizada and Milli were arrested in July 2009, shortly after filming and distributing a video using dressed-up donkeys to mock corruption within the government.

The hooliganism charges were based on a scuffle at a restaurant that the bloggers say was orchestrated by the police. Azerbaijan has ignored strong criticism from international organizations many Western governments over the cases of Hajizada and Milli.
Iranian political activist and journalist Isa Saharkhiz (file photo)
A jailed Iranian journalist has warned that if his complaint against Iran's supreme leader, president, and chief prosecutor is not pursued he will appeal to international bodies, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Isa Saharkhiz said in an open letter on July 25 that if the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, did not take action on his grievance in the coming month he would take his case to international courts and other bodies.

Saharkhiz has been in jail since he was detained in mass arrests following the disputed presidential election in June 2009.

Before his imprisonment, Saharkhiz had written an outspokenly critical letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Despite spending nearly a year in prison, there has been no verdict in Saharkhiz's case.

After a July 18 court session, Saharkhiz lodged his complaint against Khamenei, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and chief prosecutor Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei.

U.S.-based Mehdi Saharkhiz, Saharkhiz's son, told Radio Farda that his father wanted the open letter to draw attention to the three men's conduct, even if the Iranian judiciary did not investigate the matter.

Mehdi Saharkhiz said that "these three men" were in power during his father's arrest and sentencing. "Though they did not issue the orders [in his father's case], they remained silent, which makes them an equal partner in crime."

He added that the family has had limited contact with Isa Saharkhiz during his imprisonment. "My father is in good health psychologically," Mehdi said. "It is his physical health that has worried us."

Mehdi Saharkhiz said his father's rib was broken during his arrest. He also said his 57-year-old father had been tortured in prison, calling his treatment "inhuman."

Since Isa Saharkhiz's jailing, little has been known about his condition in prison.

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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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