Monday, April 20, 2015CJFE strongly condemns the April 16th sentencing of Azerbaijani human rights activist Rasul Jafarov. Jafarov has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison on politically motivated charges of tax evasion and abuse of power. As one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent activists and government critics, Jafarov has been an outspoken advocate for other human rights defenders held in prison on illegitimate charges. Jafarov was arrested in August 2014 when he was planning a campaign in connection with the inaugural European Games, to be held in the Azerbaijani capital Baku in June 2015. The government of President Ilham Aliyev has been accused of silencing critics ahead of the Games. Azerbaijan has been repeatedly criticized for its poor human rights record. Over the past year, the country’s government has intensified its crackdown on outspoken critics of the regime. It is estimated that at least 100 political prisoners are currently behind bars in the country, many of whom are detained on trumped-up charges. The government also continues to harass media organizations and human rights groups, raiding the offices of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Baku and questioning employees, and freezing the bank accounts of civil society groups. By preventing journalists and human rights activists from conducting their legitimate work, the government of Azerbaijan demonstrates its persistent contempt for human rights, in particular free expression. CJFE calls on the Azerbaijani government to reverse the politically motivated conviction of Rasul Jafarov and to repeal his sentence. We further urge the Azerbaijani authorities to end their prolonged crackdown on journalists and human rights defenders in the country. It is long past time that the government in Azerbaijan lived up to its international human rights obligations; releasing all prisoners of conscience ahead of the opening of the European Games would be a much needed step in the right direction.
This letter of concern was sent to Mr. Ramil Huseynli, Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Canada Cc: Mr. John Holmes, Ambassador of Canada to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs