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

By Lisa Margonelli
See web-only content:
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2009/11/update-azerbaijans-donkey-bloggers-get-2-years-in-prison/30000/

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2009/11/update-azerbaijans-donkey-bloggers-get-2-years-in-prison/30000/