Human Rights Defenders on Trial in Baku: Witnesses Testify in Favor of Leyla Yunus
In the Baku Court of Grave Crimes chaired by Afghan Hajiyev July 28 continued hearing on the case of human rights activist Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus.
As in previous meetings, the hall was almost full of persons let into the hall through a service door.
When the doors of the hall were open to observers, there were 22 people, including several members of the pro-government press.
As a result, only two journalists, the US embassy’s representative and a representative of an international human rights organization with interpreters were able to get into the hall.
Outraged representatives of civil society were loudly banging on the door of the court, shouting "biased court" and "the year 1937." After that, the police pushed the crowd from the courthouse.
The court continued hearing testimony of the witnesses. One of them was co-founder of the NGO "Women for peace and democracy in the Front Caucasus" Adila Manafova.
The lawyer Afghan Mammadov asked her whether the cofounders gave authority to the NGO chairwoman Rena Safaraliyeva to hire a lawyer in the liquidation of the organization. Manafova said no.
The lawyer Elchin Gambarov asked what part Leyla Yunus took in the work of the NGO.
Manafova said Leyla Yunus participated in peacekeeping efforts to resolve the Karabakh problem.
When she was asked what her job was, Manafova said Yunus argued, based on specific facts, and informed of the reasons of the Karabakh conflict, and the occupation of Azerbaijani territories.
"Armenians could not have something to counter her arguments," said Manafova.
The Prosecutor Farid Naghiyev tried to prevent the continuation of her speech. In response, the lawyer Elchin Gambarov said that yesterday the court allowed Tahmasib Novruzov to rant as a witness and testify against Yunus on her alleged cooperation with the special services of Armenia only on the basis of what he learned from the media.
"You let Tahmasib Novruzov say everything and do not let a valuable witness speak," said the lawyer.
Manafova confirmed that the international organizations confirmed the activities of Yunus.
Asked by the lawyer E. Gambarov what Safaraliyeva did in the organization, the witness said that she kept paperwork. And Yunus was not head of the organization.
"Leyla Yunus is a very democratic person," then noticed Manafova.
Manafova negatively answered the question of the prosecutor if she was aware of the use of grants and withdrawals from bank accounts.
Leyla Yunus also asked if the question of damage to the organization was raised during the NGO’s dissolution in June 2014. To this question Manafova gave a negative answer.
Next Yunus said that the lawyer of the allegedly victim party, NGO "Women for Peace and Democracy in the Front Caucasus" Shohrat Allahmanov was a "duty counsel" and therefore may not be representative of the victim.
The judge tried to stop Yunus. In response, she called "to observe the law a little bit, at least."
Addressing Allahmanov, she said: "This clown cannot represent a non-existent victim – a liquidated NGO."
Allhamanov tried to answer it. In response Yunus said: "He is even lower than a clown – a sub-clown."
The judge urged Yunus not to pass on to insults.
The judge asked Manafova whether there was a protocol of self-dissolution of the NGO.
In response, she said that the protocol existed and the liquidation process was charged to Safaraliyeva.
The witness Zemfira Ismayilova said that she knew Yunus since 1988 from her activities in NGOs. Ismayilova said that Yunus had helped many people over years. Ismayilova at the same time stated that she was not a co-founder of the NGO "Women for Peace and Democracy in the Front Caucasus."
However, she signed the dissolution document of the organization. Ismayilova explained it with the fact that she was offered to sign it by Safaraliyeva.
On the question of the defense whether Ismayilova has notes to Yunus, she said no.
Ismayilova said Yunus did much to inform about the Karabakh conflict and the Khojaly tragedy and organized an event related to that in the Philharmonic.
Ismayilova also said that during the liquidation of the NGO "Women for Peace and Democracy in the Front Caucasus" the question of inflicting damage to the NGO on the part of Yunus was not discussed.
Next they called Zarifa Hajiyeva, former wife of the arrested journalist Rauf Mirkadyrov. The defense opposed the interrogation of the witness because her testimony was not relevant to the criminal case.
Hajiyeva said that she was against her ex-husband’s visits to Armenia and worried about him.
She said she never met with Yunus, but heard Mirkadyrov spoke to her on the phone.
The next court session will be held at 10:00 on August 3
Leyla Yunus was arrested July 30, 2014 and Arif Yunus was arrested on August 5. The spouses are accused of large-scale fraud (Article 178.3.2). The article of fraud is the most grave and each of them could face up to 12 years in prison. In addition, Leyla Yunus is accused of illegal business activities (Article 192.2.2), tax evasion (213.2.2), and forgery (320.1 and 320.2). According to the results of the preliminary investigation, charges under Article 274 (treason) against both have been separated. The spouses Yunus have been declared «prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty International.