Avaz Zeynalli & Elnur Shukurov sentenced as trial concludes

An artist’s interpretation of Avaz Zeynalli behind bars. Illustration: Meydan TV.

Both Zeynalli and Shukurov were found guilty of taking bribes and influencing the decisions of officials.

The trial of the head of “Xural TV” online media, Avaz Zeynalli, and the administrator of the “Seda TV” YouTube channel, Elnur Shukurov, has concluded.

On 26 February, the verdict was announced in the Baku Heavy Crimes Court. Zeynalli was sentenced to nine and Shukurov to four years in prison.

The verdict was issued by a panel of judges consisting of Ali Mammadov, Sabina Mammadzade, and Azad Majidov.

According to the verdict, Avaz Zeynalli and Elnur Shukurov were found guilty of bribery and influencing the decisions of officials. Additionally, it was decided to confiscate 16,000 AZN found during the search of the residence of the head of “Xural TV” after his arrest.

Before the verdict was read, Avaz Zeynalli made his final statement in court. He began his final statement on 23 February, stating that his imprisonment was due to journalistic activities, and the criminal case against him was an attack on freedom of speech.

In his final statement on 26 February, he mentioned that he and those testifying against him were unfamiliar to each other, questioning how they could testify against him. He stated that out of the 38 witnesses, he did not recognize 31 of them.

Avaz Zeynalli recalled the accusation of unlawfully influencing the decisions of executive officials, calling it absurd.

Referring to the accusation against him regarding receiving a bribe of 20,000 AZN from the former head of “Baku Steel Company,” Rasim Mammadov, who has been in prison for over three years, Zeynalli stated that it was completely false.

During the trial, Judge Ali Mammadov repeatedly warned Avez Zeynalli not to prolong his final statement and to keep it brief.

After approximately ten minutes of deliberation, the judges announced the verdict.

Avaz Zeynalli has been in prison since 9 September 2022, while Elnur Shukurov has been in prison since 13 September 2022. Both claim innocence and state that they have not testified against each other.

Both Avaz Zeynalli and Elnur Shukurov’s lawyers will file an appeal against the verdict.

The prosecutor had requested a sentence of ten years for Avaz Zeynalli and five years for Elnur Shukurov.

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