IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Statement: EaPCSF condemns arrests of internationally respected civil society leaders in Azerbaijan
Tagged under Steering Committee
Civil Society Forum calls for immediate release of Leyla and Arif Yunus and Rasul Jafarov, arrested on fabricated charges following their calls for the release of other political prisoners
The Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in a statement strongly condemns the arrests of Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunus and Rasul Jafarov, highly respected civil society leaders and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. Their arrests, and the harassment of other activists and journalists in Azerbaijan – including freezing of bank accounts and arbitrary raids of offices, paralysing the work of many civil society organisations and media – are part of a concerted campaign by the Azerbaijan authorities to silence criticism of the repression of democratic freedoms in Azerbaijan.
The arrests of Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunus and Rasul Jafarov follow a series of arrests of independent figures, including journalists, opposition politicians and civil society leaders, in Azerbaijan. On 26 May 2014 last year’s Civil Society Forum Working Group 1 Co-ordinator, Anar Mammadli, Chair of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS), was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison on blatantly false charges. Anar Mammadli was nominated in 2014 for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, an annual award presented by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. On 14 July 2014, Hasan Huseynli, head of “Intelligent Citizen’’, another devoted community leader and civil rights activist in Azerbaijan, was sentenced to six years in prison on charges that have drawn protests from the international diplomatic community. Rauf Mirkadirov, political commentator with independent Ayna/Zerkalo daily, was arrested on 19 April 2014 following his critical reporting on the governments of Azerbaijan, Russia, and Turkey and charged for espionage. Suspension of publication of this popular newspaper followed his arrest.
The Civil Society Forum calls upon all EU member states to exert maximum pressure on the government of Azerbaijan to cease its legal and extra-judicial harassment of civil society organisations, opposition politicians, independent journalists and concerned citizens working to strengthen and protect democracy, freedom of expression and human rights in the country. In the name of all human rights defenders and political prisoners, we strongly endorse the nomination of Anar Mammadli for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.
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