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Prominent Azerbaijani Human Rights Defender Leyla Yunus Released from Jail on Health Grounds

Eastern Partnership Civil Society ForumFollowing the ruling of Baku Court of Appeal to suspend the 8.5-year-sentence, prominent human rights activist Leyla Yunus was freed from prison due to her deteriorating health. Despite the release, the charges against her and her husband Arif Yunus, who was conditionally freed on 12 November, are still maintained and their rights not fully restored.

The international community has repeatedly condemned the prosecution of Leyla and Arif Yunus, as well as of numerous other activists, journalists, and government critics, who still remain imprisoned in Azerbaijan on politically motivated charges, but official Baku has rejected the accusations, insisting that these cases are strictly criminal in nature.

A number of positive reactions from western officials thus followed the release of Leyla Yunus. The EEAS spokesperson called the release “a welcome and positive humanitarian gesture” while noting that the EU is ready to further deepen and broaden the relations with Azerbaijan.” In a similar tone, U.S. State Department spokesman welcomed the release noting that the US is willing to seek ways to advance the relationship with Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, the European Parliament Delegations to Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, to the EU-Azerbaijan and EU-Armenia PCCs, and to the EU-Georgia PAC also issued a joint statement welcoming the release of Leyla Yunus and calling for all charges against her to be dropped and for her political and civil rights and public image to be fully restored

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