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Eynulla Fatullayev in a Baku court in June
Imprisoned newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev delivered a three-hour speech in his last hearing before the judges issue a verdict on his drug case, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Fatullayev said in his final address to the judges in the Baku court on July 2 that the government is refusing to let him out of prison despite calls from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which in April ruled that he should be released by Azerbaijani officials and paid 25,000 euros ($33,000) for moral damages.

Fatullayev, who was jailed for 8 1/2 years in 2007 for terrorism, inciting interethnic hatred, and tax evasion, is facing an additional three years for allegedly "storing drugs" in prison.

In late December 2009, prison guards at the labor camp where Fatullayev is serving his prison term claimed they found 0.22 grams of heroin in his pockets and shoes. Fatullayev said the trace amount of drugs were planted by camp guards.

Fatullayev also told the court on July 2 that he had received warnings from top officials to stop his journalism activity before he got arrested.

"One of the top officials told me that my newspaper irritates the head of state because the newspaper is not only critical but also popular," he said.

Fatullayev said he knows that the government will not release him because it knows he would continue working as a journalist.

"It will not be difficult for me to find donors and start the work," he told the court, "and I would produce an even more popular newspaper than I used to."

Before his arrest, Fatullayev had been the editor in chief of the newspaper "Realny Azerbaijan."

Fatullayev urged the lead judge, Ismayil Khalilov, not to follow political orders. He referred to the case of Russian judge Ekaterina Guseva, who lost her post for refusing to follow orders from government officials. Fatullayev urged Khalilov to follow her example and build a unique case for an independent judiciary in Azerbaijan.

The verdict of the court will be made on July 6.
Davit Kiramijian
A young Armenian opposition activist has unexpectedly been set free after spending a month in pretrial detention on controversial charges, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Davit Kiramijian was among at least 15 people detained on May 31 in Yerevan in clashes between riot police and several dozen supporters of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).

All detainees except Kiramijian were freed in the following days. The 19-year-old university student was charged with "hooliganism" and remanded in two-month custody by a Yerevan court.

The same court ordered his immediate release on July 2, citing the completion of a criminal investigation into the incident. It said Kiramijian and another young activist detained on May 31, Sargis Gevorgian, will nonetheless stand trial on July 14.

Gevorgian was charged with assaulting a police officer before being released from police custody on June 3. The accusations leveled against the two men carry heavy fines and up to five years in jail.

Gevorgian spent three days in police custody along with his sister Ani, a journalist with the pro-opposition daily "Haykakan Zhamanak" also detained during the Liberty Square violence. The HAK condemned the police actions as illegal.

Kiramijian insisted on his innocence after walking free from Yerevan's Nubarashen prison and heading straight to HAK headquarters. He was greeted there with chants of "Davit!" and "Victory!"

Kiramijian said he did not expect to be set free before the trial.

"They took me to the prison chief, who said, 'I'm letting you go, so take care,' " he told RFE/RL.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes an official visit to Yerevan today.

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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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