Statement by the HRC “Viasna” on the detention and charging of famous Azerbaijani human rights defender Leyla Yunus
On July 30, 2014, Leyla Yunus, a known human rights activist and director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, and her husband Arif Yunus were detained in Baku (Azerbaijan). The couple were detained as they were leaving the country in order to take part in an event organized by the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety.
Both Ms. Yunus’ office and her apartment were searched by police.
In the evening of July 30, Leyla Yunus faced charges on a number of articles of the Criminal Code (treason, fraud, tax evasion, and illegal business). It was decided that the human rights defender would remain in custody for three months. Mr. Yunus is accused of treason and fraud. He has been released on bail.
The detention of Leyla and Arif Yunus is linked to their active human rights activities. Ms. Yunus has prepared a list of government officials of Azerbaijan reportedly involved in human rights violations, urging the European Union and the United States to impose sanctions against these persons.
The detention is of particular concern due to the sentencing of another Azerbaijani human rights activist, chairman of EMDS (Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center), Anar Mammadli, to five and a half years in prison on trumped-up charges of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of office, which came on May 26, 2014. The actual reason for such a hard sentence to Anar Mammadli was his organization’s involvement in monitoring the presidential election in Azerbaijan in October 2013. The voting was marked by numerous flaws, which did not allowed the observers to name this election free and democratic.
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” states that the Azerbaijani authorities systematically violate civil and political rights, pro-democracy activists are subjected to politically motivated harassment, public figures and human rights activists are prosecuted on trumped-up charges. During detention, the rights of political prisoners are grossly violated, they are subjected to torture and other inhuman treatment.
This wave of repression against the country’s human rights defenders is particularly disgraceful in the context of Azerbaijan’s chairmanship of the council of ministers of the Council of Europe since May 14, 2014.
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” strongly protests against the political persecution of prominent human rights defenders in Azerbaijan and demands the immediate release of all political prisoners in the country.
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” also expresses solidarity with the political prisoners in Azerbaijan, its fellow defenders and urges the EU and the U.S., despite their economic contacts with the Republic of Azerbaijan, to take all possible measures to put pressure on the government demanding the immediate release of political prisoners.