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Azerbaijan: President Pardons Dozens of Political Prisoners
In response to the March 16 decree by President Ilham Aliyev to release 51 political prisoners as part of a broader pardon of over 400 convicted individuals, Freedom House released the following statement:
“We are absolutely delighted and relieved to see so many political prisoners among those pardoned,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs. “This is a welcome step, a kind gesture ahead of Novruz. It does not signal a fundamental change in the Azerbaijan government's treatment of free thinkers, however. Close to 80 other political prisoners remain behind bars, including Fuad Ahmadli, Seymur Hazi, Afghan Mukhtarli, and many others; we continue receiving reports of ill-treatment of imprisoned activists, most recently of Abbas Huseynov and Taleh Bagirzade. All these people, too, should be released and their records expunged.”
On March 16, 2019 President Ilham Aliev signed a decree pardoning or reducing sentences of over 400 criminally convicted individuals in Azerbaijan, which included names of 51 persons considered political prisoners by Azerbaijan’s Working Group on a Unified List of Political Prisoners. Among them are individuals prosecuted for participation in protests in Nardaran, Siyazan, and Mingachevir; activists of political parties and youth movements, religious freedom activists, journalists and bloggers, and others. As of February 20, 2019, the Unified List of Political Prisoners contained 127 names.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.