Adnan Hajizada, recently arrested for what friends said was his open criticism of the Azerbaijani government, learned how to be a democratic activist while a University of Richmond student, his father told The Collegian.
Adnan Hajizada, 26, was involved in political groups, including Young Democrats, before he graduated from Richmond in 2005 as a political science major.
His father, Hikmet Hajizada, said he had not been able to see his son since the arrest. He said his son’s involvement in different political groups led to his life of activism in Azerbaijan, a fact that eventually led to his arrest.
Adnan Hajizada was a “man of ideas” who expressed himself through being a public activist, his father said.
He contended the arrest on charges of hooliganism was false from the beginning, saying that the government or a pro-government group probably sent the men who attacked his son.
“The idea is to punish public activists … the young generation of democrats,” Hikmet Hajizada said.
His son’s lawyer, Isakhan Ashurov, filed a motion with the Azerbaijan Court of Appeals on July 13, which is expected to be heard in two or three days. If the court decides to keep the men in jail, his lawyer would file an appeal with European courts, a process that could consume more than two years before the European Courts take any action.
Adnan Hajizada’s lawyer has seen Adnan and his fellow activist Emin Milli, telling Hikmet Hajizada that the men received medical attention in prison, but that the quality of the care was unknown.
As news of the arrests continued to spread, responses from friends and former classmates poured in, remarking a man whom they all said was inspired to enact democratic change with politics.
“While most of us sit around and complain how corrupt the government and media are, especially in post-Soviet countries, he is one of the few that actually came out and said it,” said Dina Zhurba, an administrative assistant with the Office of the Chaplaincy and former undergraduate student from Ukraine. “The work of people like Adnan inspires and motivates young people to ‘be the change.’”
Court documents filed by Adnan Hajizada’s lawyer and obtained by The Collegian say the activist was dining with friends and discussing politics on July 8 when two men — Vusal Saleh Mammadov and Babek Islam Huseynov — entered the restaurant and sat at a nearby table. People at Hajizada’s table were criticizing the Azeri government, to which Huseynov responded by questioning what the group was talking about and swearing at them, the documents say. No one in the group apparently answered his responses.
That prompted Mammadov to approach Emin Milli, 30, to ask why he had not answered, then immediately “butted him at his head and knocked him down,” according to the documents. Hajizada approached Mammadov, who quickly butted his head as well, leading Hajizada to lose his balance and fall down, after which Mammadov started kicking him, his lawyer alleges.
After the fight, Milli and Hajizada attempted to file a complaint with local authorities, who called an ambulance to care for their wounds. But their lawyer said they only received minimal medical treatment, with the “help of cotton soaked in water.” They were directed to another police station, and upon arrival, were investigated for purported criminal behavior — questioned first as witnesses, then as suspects. Their lawyer said Mammadov and Huseynov were considered victims, despite their lack of body injuries.
But Hikmet Hajizada said he thought the public pressure put on by Azeris; foreign governments including the United States, Germany and Britain; and the press would convince government officials to release the men.
Said his father: “Maybe something will change in the government’s mind.”
Stephanie Rice reported from San Diego and Dan Petty from Denver.