The refusal of the courts to display the recorded video of the fight between the parties, violated the right of the accused to a fair trial
Abdullayev v. Azerbaijan 07-03-2019 (no. 6005/08)
The refusal of the courts to examine the video evidence. Prosecution and conviction of a former Parliament Member due to his fight with another Member during the parliamentary assembly. The Court found that the refusal of the national courts to examine the video evidence without any justification undermined the overall fairness of the proceedings. Infringement of Article 6 § 1 (Right to a fair trial) of the ECHR.
The applicant, Huseyn Abbas oglu Abdullayev, is an Azerbaijani national who was born in 1967 and
lived in Baku (Azerbaijan) at the material time.
Mr Abdullayev is a former member of parliament. In March 2007, during a debate in the legislature,
he became involved in a fight with another deputy, F.A. The applicant was eventually prosecuted
and given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years. According to the applicant he asked
the court to view video tapes of the fight but it refused. It relied on evidence such as F.A.’s testimony
and a forensic report on his injuries.
An appeal court upheld his conviction in August 2007, dismissing an application by him to examine
the video evidence. A cassation appeal was also unsuccessful.
Before his arrest he suffered from spinal disc herniation which he alleges worsened during his pretrial detention. The Government states that doctors found him to be healthy enough to be detained and that he had treatment for his health problems while being held by the authorities.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT
Article 6 § 1
The Court recalled that in its recent judgment of Murtazaliyeva v. Russia, the Grand Chamber had
clarified the general principles concerning the examination of defence witnesses. The Court held that
the same principles should apply, mutatis mutandis, to the present case.
As regards the question whether Mr Abdullayev’s request to examine a videotape of the incident
was sufficiently reasoned and relevant to the subject matter of the accusation, the Court observed
that during the trial he had complained about the incorrect account of the facts put forward by the
prosecution. He had argued that he had not been the instigator of the fight and it had been F.A. who
had punched him first. In the Court’s view, having regard to its probative value to support Mr
Abdullayev’s line of defence, his motion to have this evidence examined had not appeared to have
been vexatious or unreasonable.
The Court noted that the domestic courts had never acceded to the request to examine this video
tape. The appeal court had merely held that Mr Abdullayev’s motion was unfounded without
providing any explanations to that end. Furthermore, the present case had not concerned a situation
where the evidence was withheld for public interest grounds. The video recording had already been
in public domain, hence the domestic courts had not been precluded to examine it at a hearing.
The Court found also that the video recording of the incident had been a crucial piece of physical
evidence in the case and its examination by the domestic courts would have shed light on the
incident, and also on the fact whether F.A. had born responsibility for the fight. The Court concluded
that the domestic courts’ refusal to examine the video evidence without any reasons had
undermined the overall fairness of proceedings.
The Court considered that the shortcoming identified above had been sufficiently serious to render
the trial as a whole unfair. Therefore, there had been no need to address the other procedural
violations alleged by the applicant.
As regards the complaints under Article 5, the Court observed that Mr Abdullayev was arrested on
19 March 2007 and his pre-trial detention ended on 18 May 2007, whereas the application was not
lodged with the Court until 4 February 2008, which was more than six months later. It followed that
the complaints under Article 5 had been introduced out of time and must accordingly be rejected.
As to the remaining complaints, the Court found that they did not disclose any appearance of a
violation of the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention or its Protocols. Accordingly, these
complaints were manifestly ill-founded and had to be rejected as inadmissible.
Just satisfaction (Article 41)
The Court held that Azerbaijan was to pay the applicant 2,400 euros (EUR), in respect of nonpecuniary damage(echrcaselaw.com editing).