On 16 May 2022, the Second Criminal Chamber of the Milan Court of Appeal in Italy made a historic decision that put an end to several years of smear and slander campaigns and so-called allegations of corruption.
Thus, in 2018, the Milan Court started the proceedings and accused the Azerbaijani parliamentarians Elkhan Suleymanov and Muslim Mammadov of having made a pay to Luca Volontè, a public official, Italian MP of PACE and Chairperson of organization’s largest fraction the European People’s Party (EPP), for the performance of his functions in the interest of Azerbaijan and in particular to convince the other parliamentarians to vote against the “Straesser Report” on political prisoners in Azerbaijan. In the first instance court, the prosecutor identified Elkhan Suleymanov as a decisionmaker and Muslum Mammadov as an executor of instructions in the role of corrupt officials and put forward accusations for 21 episodes against them.
The proceedings in Milan Court lasted several years. In January 2021, as an outcome of the trial, Suleymanov, Mammadov and Volontè were sentenced for only 3 episodes (which took place between December 2012 and 19 March 2013) and were acquitted for the other 18 episodes. However, the Milan Court sentenced each of the three accused (Luca Volontè, Elkhan Suleymanov, Muslum Mammadov) to four years of imprisonment.
Nevertheless, in accordance with the Italian law, the sentence is considered to be enforced only after it has become final which would only happen in the event of confirmation by the court of appeal and the court of cassation or in case no one appeal it. Therefore, the Second Criminal Chamber of the Milan Court of Appeal launched an investigation into the decision of the court of the first instance, and finally, on 16 May 2022, the Second Criminal Chamber of the Milan Court of Appeal overturned the four years imprisonment sentence (dated January 2021) for Italian MP Luca Volontè, Azerbaijani MPs Muslum Mammadov and Elkhan Suleymanov. The noteworthy point is that General Prosecutor’s Office at the Milan Court of Appeal requested the annulment of the sentence issued by the Court of Milan with regard to Muslum Mammadov and Elkhan Suleymanov, as the Public Prosecutor’s Office had not included in the record the entirety of the findings of the investigation, thus preventing a more conscious, total and concretely perfect defense in the first instance.
Thus, the Milan Court of Appeal put an end to the groundless allegations and a smear and slander campaign lasting for years. This case, being the result of allegations of corruption, was of political nature from the very beginning and appeared in the agendas of PACE and several other European institutions as part of a pressure campaign against Azerbaijan by the power centers, Armenians, pro-Armenian forces, and internal ill-willers concerned of our country’s success in the international arena.
The questions are: where did these groundless, fabricated and fake allegations of corruption of political nature originate from and why did the accusations put forward against Elkhan Suleymanov and Muslum Mammadov?
No need to go far to find answers to these questions.
Certainly, the main target of these political allegations was Azerbaijan. Thus, in spite of the constant pressure against Azerbaijan in PACE, our country has made a number of significant achievements within this organization. This could not but concern the enemies of Azerbaijan. Some of these achievements:
– Despite the fact that there were no criteria adopted by the PACE on political prisoners, the rapporteurs on the issue of political prisoners were appointed only on Azerbaijan out of 47 CoE members. Following Azerbaijan’s struggle, and despite being far from modesty, after years of persistent insistence by Elkhan Suleymanov as a member of the Human Rights Committee, the PACE acknowledged the absence of legal criteria for identifying political prisoners. PACE rapporteur Straesser included in his report the interim criteria proposed in 2001 by the independent experts, and these criteria were adopted in 2012. However, Straesser’s report on the follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan was not adopted at the session dated January 2013.
– Elkhan Suleymanov, member of the Azerbaijani delegation, initiated motions for resolutions on “Escalation of tension in Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” and “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water”. Although the report on “Escalation of tension in Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” prepared by the British MP Robert Walter was not adopted by a margin of just 3 votes as a result of OSCE’s absurd statement in favor of Armenians, its consideration at the plenary session was a great blow to enemies. The adoption of Resolution 2085 (2016) on the report “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water” prepared by MilicaMarkovıć, MP from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the provisions of this resolution, such as the recognition of Armenia as an aggressor, request for the immediate withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories, inadmissibility of the use of water as a weapon against the civilian population, the fact that Armenia bears responsibility for the environmental aggression in the region, have been the magnificent success of Azerbaijan and the failure of the enemy.
The anti-Azerbaijani forces outraged by Azerbaijan’s achievements in PACE elaborated a strategy against Azerbaijan and made constant efforts to realize this strategy. After convincing themselves that it is impossible to implement the malicious plans through bringing on the agenda the reports, thus the universally recognized democratic voting, they chose a new strategy – to put forward groundless allegations of corruption against Azerbaijan, to challenge the impartiality of PACE decisions and to bring it back on the agenda.
For sure, the root of the strategies developed by the anti-Azerbaijani and pro-Armenian forces in PACE in order to obtain new opportunities for political influence against Azerbaijan was to raise the issue of so-called political prisoners again on the agenda by all means and to use it against Azerbaijan.
In order to realize this malicious strategy, it was needed to accuse the Azerbaijani authorities of bribing European parliamentarians through corruption as a reason for the rejection of Straesser report, and thus, only thing that left was to identify the parliamentarians who carried out these so-called corruption actions. Therefore, the Investigation Body was established to look into allegations of corruption within the PACE. In a short period of time, the Investigation Body fabricated falsified and defamatory criminal cases against Azerbaijan without any proof and evidence. Thus, following the collaboration of anti-Azerbaijani power centers, pro-Armenian forces, and internal ill-willers, more than 60 PACE members, committee and fraction chairpersons, and even the PACE president was forced to resign.
The accusations against Elkhan Suleymanov and Muslum Mammadov on allegations of corruption were related particularly to their actions in preventing anti-Azerbaijani campaigns. Active struggle for ensuring Azerbaijan’s interests with regard to human rights and freedom of speech, the issue of political prisoners, elections, Armenia’s occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding districts of Azerbaijan and other issues in the PACE, the European Parliament, Euronest PA since 2010, initiative to propose motions for resolutions in PACE on “Escalation of tension in Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” and “Inhabitants of frontier regions of Azerbaijan are deliberately deprived of water”, achievement in proving the absence of criteria for political prisoners in PACE, continuous and large-scale struggle to prevent the adoption of the biased “Strasser report” made directly me – Elkhan Suleymanov and Muslum Mammadov a target to accuse. In my opinion, this showed the inability to digest the principal resistance of Elkhan Suleymanov, MP of small Azerbaijan, against Straesser MP of “great” Germany.
I would like to note that I have always spoken about the hostile position of the rapporteur Straesser towards Azerbaijan in the Azerbaijani and European media.
Therefore, in order to prevent this struggle and successes, Elkhan Suleymanov and his close colleague Muslum Mammadov were targeted by the anti-Azerbaijani forces and accused of so-called allegations of corruption. In these years, we have faced fabricated accusations, moral and material pressures, and undergone sufferings.
The decision made by the Second Criminal Chamber of the Milan Court of Appeal on 16 May 2022 once again proved that the allegations of corruption against Luca Volontè, Elkhan Suleymanov and Muslum Mammadov were unjustified. Thus, the smear and slander campaign in PACE collapsed.
Based on my 20-year of political and public experience, I do not consider today’s decision of the Milan Court as a triumph of justice. The judge with this decision simply released himself from the imprisonment of conscience. We – Elkhan Suleymanov and Muslum Mammadov – are not guilty and did not commit any crime. We have fought against the terror, smear and slander campaigns carried out by the united power centers established against Azerbaijan in PACE.
It was a terror against the achievements of Azerbaijan, a smear and slander campaign against our country by Armenians and pro-Armenians, and internal ill-willers operating under the orders of power centers. It was a malicious step taken to silence me and to stop my activities on conveying the truth about Azerbaijan to the world. We have rendered a worthy service to Azerbaijan, fought against smear and slander, and have been victims of these.
In today’s realities, this issue is no longer actual, and the court would not completely turn a blind eye to the law. However, the court did not restore the justice, but was obliged to restore the rights of innocent people. Based on my activity and experience in the European structures as MP and President of the ACSDA, I can say that there is no genuine democracy in Europe, they just carry out the orders of power centers.
Released of the so-called allegation