Ramis Yunus, brother in-law of arrested rights activist Leyla Yunus wrote a letter addressig President Barack Obama to help him secure immediate and unconditional release of Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus. With the author's permission we are publishing the letter on Azadliq Radiosu.
"Dear Mr. President,
I appeal to you personally, as a citizen of the United States and as your voter who has exhausted all possibilities to save the members of my family, my brother Arif Yunus and his wife Leyla Yunus who are in prison in Azerbaijan on bogus charges, and who, according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House are on the list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
Just to briefly inform you, Arif and Leyla are both world-renowned historians, leading the Institute for Peace and Democracy in Baku. They are prominent human rights defenders who are protecting the values of democracy and human rights in authoritarian Azerbaijan. In 2013, Leyla Yunus was awarded the highest order of France and became the Knight of the Legion of Honor. Recently, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Over the past seven months that they have been in prison, many international organizations and political leaders from around the world, including the Presidents of France and Germany, made concerning statements on their behalf. The European Parliament adopted a special resolution demanding their immediate release. Several appeals for their release were made from Washington as well. These concerns were made by the State Department and the Helsinki Commission of the US Congress which held several hearings on the state of human rights in Azerbaijan.
But in spite of all these calls and appeals, the authoritarian regime of President Aliyev hasn’t released them. Instead it continued attacks on NGOs, political activists and journalists, thus violating their commitments signed as part of Azerbaijan's accession to the OSCE. The regime in Baku attacks not only local dissidents, but also the US citizens, their family members and American institutions working in this country.One after another, the local offices of US organizations such as NDI, IRI, IREX and Peace Corps were closed, including the latest purge on the office of radio "Liberty". Ironically, it occurred immediately after the conversation between the Secretary of State John Kerry and President Aliyev.
Dear Mr. President, what else needs to happen in Azerbaijan for the United States to finally realize that it is time to stop all these double standards in relation to the dictatorship of President Aliyev? Isn’t it clear that the events around Ukraine scared Aliyev’s regime so bad that he started urgently carrying out preventive measures in Baku to stop the recurrence of Ukraine's Maidan? Isn’t an anti-American manifesto of Mr. Mehdiyev, Chief of Staff of President Aliyev, a prime example that this regime in Baku is headed towards Russia?
By knowing Ilham Aliyev and his entourage personally for many years, I can assure you that he and his team members are especially afraid of only one thing: the loss of their huge financial resources and power as they respect and fear only those who speak with them from a position of power, as it is done by the way, by Putin is his relation to Aliyev. It's time to understand that all other methods do not work in Azerbaijan, especially, when all those who defended all these years the pro-Western values in Azerbaijan are in prison today. Aliyev regime skillfully cleared this field before the Olympics, with the connivance of the US and its allies in Europe.
Dear Mr. President, twelve years ago, I immigrated with my family to the United States, where I received political asylum and as many emigrants, had to start a new life almost from the scratch. It was a difficult way to adapt to all the members of my family, but the United States is a country of immigrants, and there are all the conditions for immigrants to start a new life here. And today, I am proud to say that my familyand I, are citizens of the United States of America and your voters. But it is very hard to accept the fact that not all members of my family can share with me this joy of living in a free world and that's why I appeal to you personally.
Dear Mr. President, help me save my brother and his wife, who are on the edge of death, as they are constantly being bullied in prison morally and physically. They are not young and they both are 60 years old. I hope that you will have the opportunity to read this letter and will hear me and my SOS and do everything possible to save them. I also hope that you understand that the US energy security is not possible without the protection of basic norms of democracy where there are strategic interests of our country. As Benjamin Franklin, once said, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” I hope that the US will not sacrifice my family for the sake of its energy security.
Former Chief of Staff of Government of
Azerbaijan and former Chief of Staff of Parliament of Azerbaijan."
Mrs. Yunus and her husband were arrested last year in a charge that many of their friends and the couple's lawyer call dubious. The couple is charged with treason, abuse of power, tax evasion. Their supporters believe the couple was jailed in revenge for Yunus role in publishing the list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
March 4, Amnesty International launched an international petition calling to free all prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan - Leyla and Arif Yunus among them.