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Freed Azerbaijani Blogger Says Year Without Internet Was 'Torture'

Emin Milli: "I assume I was arrested just for telling the truth, for free thinking, for free expression, and this video was part of it. But I don't think it was the only reason for our arrest."
BAKU -- Azerbaijani opposition blogger Emin Milli has been released early from prison, one day after fellow blogger Adnan Hajizada walked free.

The jailing of the two men, widely attributed to their video clip mocking the government, had drawn international condemnation as a gross violation of free speech.

Milli reflects on his arrest and his time behind bars in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service correspondent Khadija Ismayilova.

RFE/RL: You were released on probation today after spending more than a year behind bars on charges of hooliganism. How do you explain what happened to you?

Emin Milli:
I think it was injustice, another injustice. I'm thankful to all those who helped expose this injustice. I think all my friends, all journalists, have done a really great job.

RFE/RL: How did you react to the court's decision to release you early, had you expected it?

I was expecting anything. In my country you can expect anything. I'm glad I'm out of prison. I'm a little tired, but glad.

RFE/RL: What about your arrest last year, did it take you by surprise?

I thought I may be arrested in five or 10 years if I went down this path, but it happened really quickly

The Donkey Video

RFE/RL: Many believe your jailing was punishment for an Internet video that showed your fellow blogger Adnan Hajizada giving a mock government news conference dressed as a donkey. What do you believe?

I don't know. To be honest, I still don't know why exactly I was arrested. But I assume I was arrested just for telling the truth, for free thinking, for free expression, and this video was part of it. But I don't think it was the only reason for our arrest.

RFE/RL: What was the aim of this video clip?

I think it's a piece of art. My participation was very small in creating this piece of art. But I think that like any piece of art it's open to interpretation from anyone who sees it, and I don't want to spoil the pleasure by giving my own interpretation.

RFE/RL: You've been called a blogger, a social activist, a politician. How would you describe yourself?

It's a very good question, and I ask this myself very often. I think I'm a bit of everything, I'm a cross between all the things you mentioned. I think this is not unusual for my generation. Of course, I'm not professional in any one of these fields, but I do a little but of everything and I try to tell as much truth as possible.

RFE/RL: Are you considering a political career?

No. I'm not looking for a political career, and by this I mean running for elections and this kind of thing. Some people call what I do political, but I don't call it political because politics for me is something else. It's when you do something to get votes.

RFE/RL: Now that you are a free man, do you intend to continue blogging?

Yes, I think this is part of my nature, and I can't go against my nature.

RFE/RL: What did you miss the most in prison?

I missed [the] people I love. I missed my friends, my wife, my mother. I also missed freedom -- not spiritual freedom, because I had this even in jail. I missed freedom of movement, freedom of using the Internet. I think Internet deprivation is a new form of torture for people of our generation.