Azerbaijan Should Free Human Rights Defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus
Ahead of the December 9 appeal hearing for Azerbaijani human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The health of Leyla Yunus, who has been imprisoned for 16 months on trumped up charges, has significantly deteriorated and reached a critical point in recent days,” said Mark P. Lagon, president. “Ahead of Human Rights Day and the World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day, we call on the Azerbaijani government to immediately release Leyla Yunus, end Arif Yunus’ house arrest, and ensure that Leyla Yunus is allowed to receive proper medical treatment.”
Leyla and Arif Yunus were arrested in 2014 while compiling a list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Authorities charged them with tax evasion, falsification of documents, and fraud. In August 2015, convicted of charges that had no basis in fact, Leyla was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison, while Arif received a seven-year sentence. Authorities released Arif in November 2015 to house arrest.
Azerbaijan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2015, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2015, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2015, and receives a democracy score of 6.75 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2015.
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.