In response to arrest of Leyla Yunus, Azerbaijan's most prominent human rights activist, the leadership of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today called on the Government of Azerbaijan to respect the rule of law and its human rights commitments.
The Government of Azerbaijan has arrested Ms. Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy in Azerbaijan, and her husband, Arif Yunus, and charged them with high treason, tax evasion and other economic crimes. In response, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Co-Chairman of the Commission, issued the following statement:
“The charges filed against the Yunus’s are outrageous. Both Leyla and Arif are long-time supporters of people-to-people contact with Armenia, and the charge of espionage against them is absurd. We urge the Government of Azerbaijan to drop the charges and to stop the coordinated campaign aimed at the opposition, civil society and journalists in Azerbaijan who are peacefully exercising their right to freedom of speech and freedom of association.”
On July 30, after six hours of interrogation, the authorities in Baku charged Leyla Yunus with treason, tax evasion, and fraud. Her husband, Arif Yunus, was charged with treason and fraud.
Leyla Yunus's arrest comes just one day after she published a scathing open letter to President Aliyev, in which she criticized him for arresting critical bloggers and activists. "Why are you so scared," she asked him directly, urging him not to go down in history as "a tyrant and a dictator."