This morning Baku’s Appeal Court ordered the release of blogger Adnan Hajizade, he had served half of his two-year sentence on controversial charges of hooliganism. His co-defendent, blogger, Emin Abdullayev – known as Milli, remains in prison serving a two and a half year term.
The case of the two young Azeri bloggers sparked an international outcry. The men had been actively using social media to mobilise opposition against the government, speaking out on a variety of issues, including government corruption, misuse of oil revenues, censorship and education.
Several weeks prior to their arrest, the pair posted a video on YouTube mocking the government’s decision to spend a vast amount of money on importing two donkeys from Germany. Locals believe the tongue-in-cheek video angered the regime and was the real reason for their arrest.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe voiced concerns about the sentences and the “inevitable chilling effect on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan”.