The Washington Post: Aliyev’s actions deserve condemnation

The Washington Post: Aliyev’s actions deserve condemnation

PanARMENIAN.Net - When an autocrat who is intolerant of dissent begins to see spies and traitors around, it is a good time to be alert. Now is such a moment in Azerbaijan, an article in The Washington Post says.

The regime of President Ilham Aliyev has imprisoned one of the country’s most outspoken advocates for human rights, Leyla Yunus, and her husband, Arif, a historian. The charges: treason, fraud, tax evasion and illegal business activities.

Ms. Yunus is director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy in Baku, a human rights organization, and, in addition to her work defending political prisoners, she has been at the forefront of attempts to bridge the country’s long hostility with Armenia over the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. She organized exchanges and confidence-building efforts between Azeri and Armenian intellectuals, and this apparently provided the pretext for the absurd charge of espionage. The government had refused to officially register her institute, making it more vulnerable to the kind of arbitrary and capricious prosecution that is underway, the article says.

“Ms. Yunus and her husband were blocked at the Baku airport on April 28 and prevented from leaving the country. Their passports were confiscated. They were repeatedly interrogated but defiantly refused to cooperate until their passports are returned along with their freedom. On July 30, Ms. Yunus was detained on her way to a conference. Her husband was also charged and put under house arrest. But he, too, was jailed on Aug 5 when on the way to deliver a food parcel to her in prison,” the article notes.

It goes on to remind that for years, Ms. Yunus has spoken out loudly about human rights abuses in Azerbaijan.

“Another human rights activist, Rasul Jafarov, was also arrested recently, and dozens of others have been detained for political reasons in recent months,” the article says.

“Aliyev may think he is being clever by silencing critics while a crisis in Ukraine has distracted world attention. But that’s what is different from Soviet times. It is no longer possible to hide such uncivilized behavior. The arrests have drawn wide protests from human rights groups and other nongovernmental organizations,” it says.

Ms. Yunus wrote an open letter from her jail cell, referring to “jackals of the regime” and declaring: “You could not withstand our words. You responded with violence.”

“It is beyond comprehension how Mr. Aliyev can carry out such repression at a time when Azerbaijan is chair of the committee of ministers of the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organization. Mr. Aliyev clearly craves respect abroad. But his actions deserve condemnation. Leyla and Arif Yunus should be freed immediately. If they are not, perhaps the Council of Europe should ask how long it can tolerate a chairmanship by a nation that does not respect even the basic tenets of human rights and rule of law,” the article concludes.

 Top stories
"We are concerned about the state of the European project," the foreign ministers of the Six said in a statement after talks.
The Siege Watch report says 1.09 million people are living in 46 besieged communities in Syria, far more than the 18 listed by the UN.
Rebel-held areas in and around Aleppo are still home to 350,000 people, and aid workers have said they could soon fall to the government.
The launch would be in defiance of repeated warnings by governments who suspect it is a banned test of ballistic missile technology.
Partner news