MEPs: EU must take action against jailing critical voices in Azerbaijan

Marietje
The ALDE Group in the European Parliament strongly condemns the sentences passed against critical voices of the Azerbaijan’s Government and asks the European Union to respond to the systematic crackdown on human rights in this country. BEFollowing the sentencing of the investigative journalist, Khadija Ismaylova, to seven and a half years in prison by a Baku court, ALDE Group leader, Guy Verhofstadt, said: “This is not the first time authorities in Azerbaijan have jailed journalists for holding the government accountable and for shedding light on corruption; this has to stop. The EU must push Azerbaijan to respect its international human rights obligations, to release political prisoners and guarantee freedom of the press. NLALDE MEP, Marietje Schaake (D66, The Netherlands), is also very concerned by the situation: "The sentencing of Khadija Ismaylova is the latest in a series of sentences against critical voices. The trial was not fair, nor did it meet international standards. The rate with which authorities in Azerbaijan sentence critical voices from opposition groups, journalism, civil society and human rights organisations is of serious concern. We call on the authorities in Azerbaijan to immediately release all political prisoners." Khadija Ismayilova, a contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was convicted on charges of criminal libel, tax evasion and abuse of power, after reporting on corruption linked to Azeri President, Ilham Aliyev and members of his family. Another prominent human rights activist in Azerbaijan, Leyla Yunus, has been sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. Her husband, Arif Yunus, received seven years on similar charges. ALDE FIALDE MEP Anneli Jäätteenmäki, Vice-President of the European Parliament and rapporteur on Azerbaijan, added: "I regret that the human rights situation in Azerbaijan continues to be alarming. However, a serious yet mutually respectful dialogue with the government of Azerbaijan and the opposition forces as well as the civil society must continue. Engagement is a much more powerful tool to promote and advance human rights than isolation."
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