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Second youth activist Emin Milli released
Emin Milli (Abdullayev) has been freed today after an Azerbaijani district court partially upheld his application for early release.
Emin Milli's release comes just a day after his friend and co-defendant, Adnan Hajizade, was freed on similar grounds in Baku.
Early this morning Salyan District court upheld Emin Milli's application for early release on the grounds that he had already served more than half his sentence, his lawyer Isakhan Ashurov told Turan news agency.
The court conditionally released him from the remaining 13 months of his term. He had already served 17 months behind bars.
A conditional release is similar to a period of parole, during which a former prisoner must not have any problems with the law-enforcement agencies.
Reaction to Hajizade's release
When he walked from the courtroom yesterday, Adnan Hajizade called for Emin Milli to be freed.
"Freedom is my right. I demanded to be fully cleared of the charges as I am not guilty," he told journalists.
"I want my friend Emin Milli to be released too, as he is as innocent as I am," Turan reported Hajizade as saying.
Asked whether he would still blog, Adnan, whose blog posts are believed to have offended the authorities, said that he did not intend to change his life and would continue where he left off.
He said he did not intend to go abroad. "I've nowhere to go - my life is here," the 25-year-old said.
The OSCE's representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, welcomed Hajizade's release yesterday. She called on the Azerbaijani authorities to set free Emin Milli and imprisoned editor Eynulla Fatullayev too.
"I am relieved that Hajizade was finally released," Mijatovic said in a statement. "This had been a long-standing request of my Office and many international organizations and non-governmental organizations worldwide. I have raised this issue on numerous occasions with Azerbaijani officials. I hope he will be eventually cleared of all charges brought against him.
"I also call on the Azerbaijani authorities to decriminalize defamation so that journalists can exercise their profession free, without fear of imprisonment, no matter how provocative, satirical or sensitive their expressed views are," the OSCE representative said.
Emin Milli and fellow activist Adnan Hajizade were sentenced on 11 November 2009 to two years and six months and two years imprisonment respectively. They were arrested after an incident at a restaurant in Baku on 8 July 2009 and convicted under Criminal Code Article 127.2.3 (deliberately causing minor injury) and 221.2.1 (hooliganism).
Their release is in contrast to their appeal against their original sentence. That appeal was turned down by the court of first instance and Appellate Court. On 19 August, the Supreme Court, the final arbiter, turned down the appeal too.
The pair's lawyers argued in court that no crime had occurred and their clients should be freed. They said they would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The Council of Europe, OSCE, US State Department and US president all expressed concern at the case.
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