Of the 101 pardoned prisoners on March 18, only four were on the list of political prisoners. Bashir Suleymanli, the Executive Director of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center, Orkhan Eyyubzade, an opposition blogger, and two representatives of religious groups, Ramil Veliyev and Anar Gasimli were pardoned.
On March 19, Jen Psaki, department spokesperson said, the United States welcomed the release of these four prisoners who have been incarcerated for their civic activism.
Psaki reminded the Azerbaijani government however that others considered to have been imprisoned for their civic activity should be released in the months ahead. "Doing so would demonstrate the government’s adherence to OSCE and other international commitments to uphold the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens", said the Psaki.
Human rights groups were disappointed by the short list of released prisoners. One of the watchdogs in Azerbaijan, Helsinki Citizen's Assembly said their list included some 30 prisoners and yet only four were freed despite the expectations.
Two more presidential pardons are expected - one in the run up to the European Games and one before the New Year.
But as authorities release current political prisoners, others continue to receive lengthy jail sentences. On March 16, Sirac Karimli, was sentenced to six years on charges of drug posession. Karimli was arrested on July 17, 2014 by a mistake instead of his brother Farac Karimli. Farac Karimli was arrested a week later, on July 23, however, after his arrest, his brother Sirac was kept in pre-trial detention. In his final statement during his hearing Sirac Karimli said he was kept in prison because both his brother and himself are members of an opposition party, Musavat. Amnesty International declared both brothers "prisoners of conscience".