Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel should urge president Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan to free leading human rights defenders, journalists, and other government critics jailed unjustly in Azerbaijan, Human Rights Watch said today.
Merkel Should Press Aliyev for Rights
STEPANAKERT, JANUARY 20, ARTSAKHPRESS: Merkel is scheduled to meet Aliyev in Berlin on January 21, 2015, to discuss bilateral relations, energy policy, and other issues.
In a staggering crackdown on critical voices, Azerbaijani authorities arrested and imprisoned more than 30 government critics in 2014 alone. The country has also adopted legislative changes and other restrictive measures to virtually close space for independent groups.
“Merkel should not miss this opportunity to urge Azerbaijan’s president, in public and in private, to end this attack on human rights” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The charges against these activists are politically motivated. Merkel could make a difference in securing their freedom.”
Over the past year, the Azerbaijani government used a range of bogus criminal charges, including narcotics and weapons possession, tax evasion, hooliganism, incitement, and even treason, to convict or imprison at least 34 human rights defenders, political and civil activists, journalists, and bloggers, prompting others to flee the country or go into hiding.