Why did the Sumgayit trial not interest the world media?

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Aslan Ismayilov: “How did it happen that during the events themselves the world media ended up in Sumgayit, but the trial did not interest them?”

Feb 7, 2011, at 09:48 ~ 9 minutes to read 4562

By | Akper Hasanov

Republished January 13, 2021 

Exclusive interview to 1news.Az with a well-known lawyer, author of the book “Sumgayit – the beginning of the collapse of the USSR” Aslan Ismailov (part 5).

The previous parts of this interview can be found here: PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4.

– Were there any attempts at provocations, attempts to give bribes during the court session?

There were. For example, on August 23, I found that there were cases of bribes in the convoy. I learned that the lawyers of the accused, their relatives, and other persons illegally meet with the accused of bribes. And it is on this day that a blade is found at Grigoryan. I am sure that they wanted to either kill Grigoryan or arrange for him to escape.

Part 4: 

Same people potentially traced in Sumgayit, Osh, and Fergana

It was for this purpose that the blade was handed over to him. But, no one paid attention to all my appeals. As a result, in the following days, Isaev and Nadzhafov tried to commit suicide by opening the veins.

Once again, I want to note that I have repeatedly warned the court about the possibility of the murder or organization of Grigoryan’s escape, and asked to take appropriate measures to prevent such actions. But again no one paid any attention to it.

After all that I saw, realizing that no one attached importance to my appeals to the court, I called the military unit, which protects the accused, not through my leadership, but personally. After explaining the seriousness of the events, I asked them to enforce the law.

And what happened directly at the trial?

Very interesting things happened. For example, when I asked the accused questions that clarified the organized nature of the Sumgayit events and could expose them, the lawyers immediately rose from their seats with statements that the defendants would not answer questions, as they had the right to do so. Despite my repeated appeals to the judge with a request to stop the interference of lawyers, the court did not pay any attention to this.

Part 3

“It was Eduard Grigoryan who beat, raped the Mezhlumyan sisters…”

Therefore, on the one hand, not allowing me to listen to the questions I asked, the lawyers deliberately created confusion in the court, and on the other hand, due to the refusal of the accused to answer questions, the secretary of the trial did not enter these questions into the protocol. That is why, having come to terms with the current situation, regardless of whether the answers to the questions I raised were given or not, to fix the questions in the protocol, I dictated them to the secretary of the court session. Throughout the entire process, not only lawyers but also Grigoryan tried to disrupt its course.

Part 2 

“Black January links”Sumgayit interview with Aslan Ismailov prt 1.


With his constant inappropriate, impracticable moves, he tried to delay the process or direct it in a different direction. One of such motions was the demand, mentioned in my notes, to “summon the investigators to court”. Knowing that these investigators are already outside Azerbaijan and it is impossible to ensure that they are summoned to court, Grigoryan, again and again, made similar petitions.

Then he challenged me. The challenge was supported by lawyer Trubovskaya and stated that I was allegedly asking irrelevant questions. These “irrelevant questions” related to the points I touched upon, connected with people in black cloaks, with pills being handed out, with lists of addresses of Armenians. For example, I tried to get an answer from Grigoryan to the following question:

“If the accused Azerbaijanis justified their crimes against Armenians as a response to similar actions of Armenians that they committed against Azerbaijanis, what does Grigoryan have to do with this argument?” I was wondering why he, an Armenian, allegedly tried to take revenge on the Armenians for the Azerbaijanis? It was these questions that attorney Trubovskaya considered irrelevant to the case, and based on the fact that these issues were not reflected in the case file, supported Grigoryan’s challenge. I repeat once again, if today we raise and study the minutes of the sessions of this court, analyze all the nuances of the questions asked during the whole process, it will become clear whose questions were relevant and whose were not.

What position did the media take in covering this court session?

As noted above, I was working in Russia when the famous events took place in Sumgait, and I first learned about them from the press. Information about events with the speed of light spread not only throughout the USSR but throughout the world.

The central media prepared programs, distributed news, published articles. And in this news, the organizers and participants of the events were the Azerbaijanis, presented as “killers”, “criminals”, in a word, savages. Subsequently, it turned out that what happened similarly was presented not only in the Soviet press but also in the world mass media. Of course, the media played an exceptional role in representing Azerbaijanis throughout the world as “savages” at that time. I’ve always believed that the work of the press is to convey information accurately and impartially. At that time, the information was conveyed accurately, but whether it was impartial or biased is a topic for another discussion.

“Black January links”Sumgayit interview with Aslan Ismailov prt 1.

When the trial of Grigoryan and 6 Azeri residents opened, I hoped that these particular media would act in the same way, that is, they would show serious interest in this event. But, after the start of the trial, I did not see any press representatives in the courtroom, there were no publications in the central press either. As if it was enough for the press to spread the news about the “savagery” of Azerbaijanis, thus they considered their mission fulfilled.

Have you tried somehow to draw the attention of the republic’s leadership to this problem?

Tried to. About 9-10 days after the start of the trial, I spoke about such indifference of the press with the head of my department. His answer was categorical and short: “Go, mind your own business! Your business is to defend the state prosecution.” Then I decided to turn to the prosecutor of the republic, Ilyas Ismailov.

During the meeting, I brought to his attention the importance of the issue, because at one time these events were widely covered by the media all over the world, and now, at such an important moment, the press is on the sidelines. He listened to me carefully and asked what my suggestions were. From his reaction, I understood that he regretted this situation. I asked him to help cover the trial in the central press – in Pravda or Izvestia, or on the Vremya program, considered at that time in the USSR the main television news program. Ilyas Ismailov phoned the secretary of the Central Committee named Rafik in front of me and spoke with him very decisively.

I precisely remembered the words of Ilyas Ismailov: “You are sitting there and doing idle things. There is a very serious process connected with the Sumgayit events, one of the accused is an Armenian by the name of Grigoryan. And this process has not been covered in the press anywhere shitsya. I did not hear the answer from this person, but Ilyas Ismailov told me: “Go, the press will take part in the process.” 

And in fact, the next day, during a break, Zaur Kadymbekov, who worked as his own correspondent for one of the central newspapers, approached me.

He introduced himself and said that he was instructed to keep in touch with me and transmit information about the trial to central newspapers. With great enthusiasm I told him about interesting episodes of the process, seeing that all this aroused a keen interest in him. In any case, on the first day, he sat through the trial until the very end, making notes. But after that, I never saw him or his publications in the newspapers again.

Today I can say with full confidence that during the period when the trial was held, not a single article or information was published in the central press covering the course of the trial. Perhaps something was printed in the local press – I can neither confirm nor deny this, because no one asked me about the trial, and I did not see any of the local journalists. At that time, I did not regularly monitor the local press, I kept only the central one in my field of vision, and there I did not meet any information.

In itself, this fact already demanded an answer to numerous questions: how did it happen that during the events themselves, representatives of not only the entire central press of the USSR but also the leading world media appeared in Sumgayit? Who invited them there at this very moment? If these events caused such a serious resonance, why were this attention and interest not shown to the trial? Why did the press, which introduced Azerbaijanis to the whole world as savages, fell silent now, considering its mission completed? Why wasn’t she interested in the further fate of the trial? What or who prevented Zaur Kadymbekov from further participating in the process and covering it? As you can see, a lot of questions have accumulated.

Akper Hasanov