Azerbaidjan: Leyla Yunus released on probation!

Press release
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(Geneva, Paris) The Baku Court of Appeal commuted yesterday the sentence against Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov to a release on probation for 5 years. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint OMCT-FIDH programme) welcomes this long-awaited decision which follows months of intensive struggle for their freedom.

Ms. Leyla Yunus is the Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) and a member of OMCT General Assembly. Her husband, Arif Yunusov, heads the Conflictology Department of IPD. Both had been sentenced to 8,5 and 7 years of imprisonment respectively on August 13, 2015, following a procedure that grossly disregarded international standards of fair trial and due process.

Ms. Leyla Yunus was released yesterday after nearly 1,5 years of arbitrary detention. Over the past months, the Courts had repeatedly refused the request for conditional release on humanitarian grounds, which had been filed by the lawyers of the Yunus couple in view of the severe deterioration of their health. On November 13, the Baku Grave Crimes Court had approved the request to change the measure of restraint against Mr. Arif Yunusov from detention to conditional release for the period of appeal. Yesterday the Baku Court of Appeal also commuted his sentence to a 5-year probation release. However, the Observatory recalls that both Leyla and Arif are still facing charges of treason in a separate judicial process.

The Observatory welcomes the long overdue decision to release the Yunus but strongly condemns the responsibility of the Azeri authorities in the deterioration of the health condition of both Leyla and Arif Yunus during their arbitrary detention. The Observatory also reiterates its position that the conviction has no legal grounds and merely aims at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory now calls for all charges against the Yunus couple to be dropped, as well as for the immediate and unconditional release of all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Azerbaijan, such as Khadija Ismailova, Intigam Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov, Anar Mammadli, Hilal Mammadov and Rauf Mirqadirov.

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