EU urges Azerbaijan to release opposition figures

The appeal comes amid growing international concern about Azerbaijan's reported crackdown on dissenters, including investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli and opposition politician Gozel Bayramli.

EU urges Azerbaijan to release opposition figures

World Bulletin / News Desk

The European Union on Sunday called on Azerbaijan to urgently release detained opposition figures, including a journalist allegedly abducted in Georgia.

"A review by Azerbaijan of any and all cases of incarceration related to the exercise of fundamental rights, including the freedom of expression, and immediate release (of) all of those concerned is urgent," the EU's diplomatic arm said.

Such action would be in line with Azerbaijan's international commitments, according to a statement from the External Action Service.

"We expect that the due process of law is respected, as well as the civil and political rights of citizens and those residing legally in states other than their own," it said.

The statement did not name anybody but referred clearly to pro-opposition journalist Afghan Mukhtarli who was jailed last week for a preliminary three months by an Azerbaijani court.

He was charged with illegally crossing the border and smuggling money after he resurfaced in his homeland following a purported kidnapping.

The EU welcomed Georgia's announcement to investigate the alleged kidnapping, although Tbilisi denies it was involved in the case.

Mukhtarli, 43, had lived in self-imposed exile in neighbouring Georgia since 2015 after investigating Azerbaijan's strongman leader Ilham Aliyev for corruption.

He claims that he was abducted in the Georgian capital, by plain-clothed men who spoke Georgian, beaten and later handed to Azerbaijani security forces.

In another case, Azerbaijan last month arrested Bayramli, the deputy chairperson of the opposition Popular Front Party, her colleagues said.

She was arrested after she crossed into Azerbaijan from Georgia, the party's chairman Ali Kerimli told AFP.

The US State Department has called for the release of Mukhtarli and Bayramli, naming both of them and expressing concern over a crackdown on people practising their fundamental freedoms.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Haziran 2017, 01:56