March 26, during the first session at the Senate, Senator Dick Durbin took the floor speaking on the situation of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia.
In his floor speech, Senator Durbin said, he was "deeply troubled by the recent crackdown on human rights activists in Azerbaijan--part of a disturbing pattern in that country that has significantly deteriorated during the last year.
The New York Times summed it up nicely in its recent editorial by describing Azeri President Aliyev as a modern-day "Jekyll and Hyde" who is able to convince the world that he plays nice with the West while creating one of the worst human rights records at the same time.
Aliyev wants the world to believe that Azerbaijan is a model country that promotes moderate Islam, has strong relations with the West, and is an ideal host for the upcoming European games, yet it currently holds more political prisoners than Russia and Belarus combined--not a great distinction to be sure" said Durbin.
Senator Durbin also spoke about the raid on the Radio Freeo Europe/Radio Liberty local bureau in December and the arrest of investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova.
He also mentioned the cases of Anar Mammadli, Leyla and Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, and Intigam Aliyev.
"Sadly, this is just a snapshot of the many brave Azeris or organizations facing trumped-up charges or imprisonment for simply exercising basic political freedoms. To them, I say, the world is aware of your plight and courage. And to President Aliyev, I urge you to release your own people whose only offense has been to ask for a peaceful democratic Azerbaijan. You cannot be a part of the Western community of democracies while violating its core democratic principles", stated Durbin.