The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Azerbaijan, Sir Roger Gale (United Kingdom, EC) and Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), have expressed their approval at the decision of the General Prosecutor’s Office in Azerbaijan to terminate a new criminal case against Azerbaijani anti-corruption blogger and Chairman of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) Mehman Huseynov, who is currently serving the remaining two months of a two-year prison sentence on defamation charges.
The new charges, of “resisting a representative of the authorities with the use of violence”, were initiated last December and could have led to the extension of his imprisonment by up to seven years. The co-rapporteurs have called on the Azerbaijani authorities to review this case as a matter of absolute priority.
“It’s a small but significant step in the right direction,” the co-rapporteurs said. “However, we remain cautious and will continue to closely follow the conditions of his release once the present sentence is terminated in March. More importantly, we cannot forget that this is not an isolated case.”
They concluded: “We will hold an exchange of views with Azerbaijani parliamentarians on the topic of political prisoners in the Monitoring Committee during the present session of the Parliamentary Assembly. We hope that the decision to drop the new charges against Mr Huseynov will be a part of an ongoing process.”