Update: Azerbaijan's "Donkey Bloggers" Get 2 Years in Prison

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Two months ago I posted on the energy politics around Azerbaijan's arrest of two "donkey bloggers," who obliquely criticized the government. Today Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty is reporting that the two young men have been sentenced to 2 years in prison. The article contains cell footage from inside the courtroom as well as outside. The article also quotes a US State Department statement about the sentences:

"The State Department issued a statement calling the court's decision "a step backwards for Azerbaijan's progress toward democratic reform." The statement criticized "the nontransparent investigation, closed-door hearings, and disproportionate legal charges," saying they "raised concerns about the independence of the police and the judiciary as well as about restrictions on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan."

This is terrible news for the bloggers themselves, who were arrested for "hooliganism,"  after a scuffle in a restaurant which they say was politically motivated.

I think it's interesting to look at the actual video (also embedded above) that they made of a "donkey" giving a press conference. (It has subtitles) Reportedly, the government spent $41,000 per donkey to buy two foreign donkeys.  And in the video, reporters ask the "donkey" about his flight and he talks about losing his luggage, and being fondled by Azeri admirers. When the reporters ask why he's worth so much money, he stands up to play the violin! It's a strangely adorable protest video, and one that says a lot about the delicate line government critics walk in Azerbaijan.

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Lisa Margonelli is a writer on energy and environment. She spent four years and traveled 100,000 miles to write her book, "Oil On the Brain: Petroleum's Long Strange Trip to Your Tank." More

Lisa Margonelli directs the New America Foundation's Energy Productivity Initiative, which works to promote energy efficiency as a way of ensuring energy security, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and economic security for American families. She spent roughly four years and traveled 100,000 miles to report her book about the oil supply chain, Oil On the Brain: Petroleum's Long Strange Trip to Your Tank, which the American Library Association named one of the 25 Notable Books of 2007. She spent her childhood in Maine where, during the energy crisis of the 1970s, her family heated the house with wood hauled by a horse. Later, fortunately, they got a tractor. The experience instilled a strong appreciation for the convenience of fossil fuels.

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