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Azerbaijan: PACE President outraged at sentences for Leyla and Arif Yunus

“I am shocked and outraged by the sentencing of Leyla and Arif Yunus for eight-and-a-half and seven years of imprisonment, respectively,” said Anne Brasseur, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

“The Council of Europe has repeatedly urged the authorities to stop the unprecedented crackdown on civil society – including reprisals and judicial harassment of human rights defenders and independent media – and address human rights problems in the country,” she said.

“Despite these appeals, the situation has not improved. It has worsened. The people targeted, the type of charges, the length of sentences, obvious shortcomings in trials, all put in question the authorities’ willingness to respect the fundamental values of the Council of Europe. Today’s decision is further proof of serious and systemic human rights problems in Azerbaijan,” continued the President.

“In its June 2015 resolution on Azerbaijan, the Assembly called the authorities to ‘put an end to systemic repression of human rights defenders, the media and those critical of the government’, to ‘release all political prisoners’ and to ‘stop the reprisal of journalists and others who express critical opinions’.

Today’s decision shows that these appeals have fallen on deaf ears in Baku. Therefore, I once again urge the authorities to take a step back and re-examine their approach to human rights, in line with the commitments they have made to the values and standards of the Council of Europe.”