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Four Tried In Azerbaijan Over Assault On Foreign Journalist, Activist

British rights activist Celia Davies
British rights activist Celia Davies
BAKU -- Four men have gone on trial in Baku accused of assaulting a U.S. journalist and a British rights activist in the Azerbaijani capital four months ago, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

U.S. journalist Amanda Erickson and British human rights activist Celia Davies say they were attacked on June 15 near the National Drama Theater in Baku as they were walking to their apartments.

The four men aged 20-22 -- Adil Tagizadeh, Roman Hasanov, Vusal Qurbanov, and Nazim Huseynov -- are accused of hooliganism and causing grievous bodily harm. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to between three and seven years in jail.

All four defendants pleaded not guilty. They denied attacking the two women or using abusive language, and said they were not drunk. They claimed they wanted to help the two women, who gave the impression of being drunk themselves.

"They were both drunk, I approached one of them, slapped her on the back and asked whether they needed any help," said Tagizadeh. "They were frightened, began to shout and we realized they were foreigners. Then my cousin Nazim [Huseynov] gave her his mobile and told them to call 102 for the police if they were afraid. The woman threw the telephone on the ground and it broke. We didn't hit them and...they began to run away."

Activist Davies accused the defendants of lying: "They were following us, they were laughing loudly. They approached us; one of them took our bags and threw them down. We did not understand what they were saying. They knocked us off our feet."

When one of the lawyers asked her which one of the defendants knocked her down, she said they did not have a chance to look at the men's faces as they were being beaten. She also told the lawyers she and Erickson had drunk beer together before the incident, but they were not drunk.

Davies told the court the interpreter was not translating her testimony accurately. The trial was then postponed until October 13.

Erickson and Davies have been conducting training for local journalists and civil society activists in Baku.

Erickson has published articles in "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times." She is currently in the United States.