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An Open Letter to the Authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan
16 August 2015 | Alexander Tsinker

On August 13, 2015 the Baku Court on Grave Crimes has sentenced the Director of the Institute of Peace and Democracy Leyla Yunus to eight and half years in prison. Her husband, a political scientist Arif Yunus, was sentenced to seven years in prison. The couple was accused of economic crimes, fraud, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and forgery. Moreover, a separate lawsuit was filed on the accusation of high treason.

As asserted by the head of the Press Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan the trial was held in an open and free order. All the conditions have been created for the media, political and civil society circles, the diplomatic corps and international organizations accredited in Azerbaijan, as well as the diplomats from the EU member states to oversee the process.

Meanwhile, serious concerns on the sentence of the Yunus spouses have been expressed by the US State Department, Council of Europe, OSCE and PACE. A large number of representatives of interstate and national institutions, as well as international human rights organizations believe that the charges against the Yunus spouses are connected exclusively with their activities in the sphere of human rights, as well as their participation in the civil society programs aimed at confidence-building and reducing tensions in the region.

The health condition of Leyla and Arif Yunus is a matter of another concern. Leylas health has sharply deteriorated during the trial, - as for Arif, he frequently lost consciousness during the court sessions. The couple has been under arrest for about a year, and such a long imprisonment could mean a death sentence for them. Is there anything more important for all of us than human life?

I, The President of the International Expert Center for Electoral Systems, on behalf of my colleagues who know Arif Yunus by the virtue of joint work, appeal to the representatives of Azerbaijani authorities with a call to remember each persons right to life and, hereby, ask them to release the Yunus couple for humanitarian reasons and provide them with an opportunity for a full treatment.

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