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Azerbaijani Court Begins Hearings In Oil Academy Massacre

BAKU -- An Azerbaijani court has begun preliminary hearings into the deadly massacre last year at the State Oil Academy, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Initial reports of the tragedy on April 30, 2009, said Farda Gadirov killed 12 people and wounded 13 others at the Baku institute. Gadirov -- an ethnic Azeri from Georgia -- died at the scene.

Four other men -- Cavidan Amirov, Nadir Aliyev, Arif Qabulov, and Nacaf Suleymanov -- who are Azeris originally from Georgia are being charged with terrorism, smuggling, illegal weapons possession, and conspiracy.

Amirov said during the hearing that he was a close relative of Gadirov but did not meet with him before the incident and did not know anything about the shootings.

Aliyev told the court he had no information about the crime. "[Police] forced me to sign these documents [in which I confess to knowing about it]," he said.

All four pleaded not guilty at the hearing today and said they had been forced in detention to confess to the crimes under torture while being interrogated.

They demanded that their interrogator, Fakhraddin Panahov, be summoned and required to testify. The accused also demanded that the case be returned to a preliminary investigation. The judge rejected the last request and said the one connected with the interrogator will be discussed during the trial.

The process is set to resume on April 21.