Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus Receive Harsh Sentences

13 August 2015

Prominent human rights activists Leyla and Arif Yunus have been sentenced to 8.5 and 7 years in prison respectively on politically motivated charges.

The Baku Grave Crimes court pronounced the verdict after a speedy hearing. The couple faced charges of large-scale fraud, forgery, tax evasion and illegal business. Both can still be charged with treason, which might lead to a life sentence. The trial against Leyla and Arif Yunus opened on 27 July.

Leyla and Arif are in poor health, while the couple have been in prison since their arrest nearly a year ago. During the past year in detention their health deteriorated. However, requests for access to the necessary medical treatment have been denied multiple times. Arif Yunus fainted while making his final plea and required immediate medical attention.

According to the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) the judgement was full of inaccuracies due to a total lack of examination of the evidence, and the violations of international standards of the right to a fair trial were obvious. The heavy sentences underline Azerbaijan’s disregard for the international standards of fair trial and due process.

Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) and Arif Yunus, Chief of IPD’s department of conflictology, were arrested in the summer of 2014 as part of a large-scale crackdown against Azerbaijani human rights defenders and civil society.

Statements condemning their sentencing were issued by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, European ParliamentCouncil of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks, OSCE PA and US Department of State.

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