HRW calls for release of Azerbaijan human rights activist News
HRW calls for release of Azerbaijan human rights activist

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [press release] the conviction of leading human rights activist Rasul Jafarov by a court in Azerbaijan Thursday and called for his immediate release. HRW criticized the arrest and conviction as a government initiative to silence political critics. As the founder and chair of Human Rights Club, Jafarov had been attempting to compile a comprehensive list of Azeri victims of politically motivated arrests prior to his own arrest in August. Giorgi Gogia, senior South Caucasus researcher at Human Rights Watch, said of the conviction, “Jafarov was one of the most authoritative and outspoken critics of politically motivated prosecutions in Azerbaijan, and now he has become a victim of one.” The charges against Jafarov were based primarily on Human Rights Club’s unregistered state status and include tax evasion, abuse of power, illegal business activities, and embezzlement. The court sentenced him to six and a half years in prison.

The human rights situation in Azerbaijan has drawn heavy criticism from the UN and various rights groups. A report [World Report 2015: Azerbaijan] published by HRW reported escalating repression of political critics in 2014 by the Azerbaijani government. In February the detention [JURIST report] of Azeri human rights activist Leyla Yunus, held without trial since July, was extended an additional five months. Yunus was reportedly working on the comprehensive list of politically motivated arrests in Azerbaijan with Rasul Jafarov. In August the conviction against leading human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev, also involved in the project with Jafarov and Yunus, was upheld [JURIST report]. With the opening of the European Games [official website] on June 12, HRW urged [JURIST report] political leaders across Europe not to endorse the multi-sport event unless the political prisoners are released.