Friday, March 13, 2015Mr. Ramil Huseynli, Charge d’ Affaires Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Canada 275 Slater Street, Suite 1203 Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5H9 Canada Dear Mr. Huseynli, I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world. CJFE vehemently condemns the continued judicial harassment of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society activists in Azerbaijan and calls on the country’s authorities to immediately release all wrongly detained journalists and activists. Prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan include journalists Khadija Ismayilova and Seymur Hezi, as well as human rights defenders Arif and Leyla Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Anar Mammadli, Bashir Suleymanli and Intigam Aliyev. Emin Huseynov, head of IFEX member organization the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), remains in Azerbaijan’s Swiss Embassy after being forced to take refuge there following a government raid on IRFS’ offices in August 2014. CJFE has observed a disturbing crackdown on critical voices in Azerbaijan, executed through the use of spurious charges to detain government critics, the continued ban of foreign broadcasts on FM radio frequencies, and the introduction of repressive legislation to prevent foreign funding of independent groups. In the past year alone, there have been at least 35 cases of unfounded criminal charges being used to silence journalists, human rights exponents and members of civil society. CJFE encourages the Azerbaijani authorities to drop all illegitimate charges against journalists and human rights defenders in the country, and to release all prisoners of conscience. We further urge the government of Azerbaijan to cease the use of legal intimidation tactics to silence critical debate, and to instead guarantee the free expression rights of all Azerbaijanis, thereby fostering an environment in which independent media can thrive. With less than 100 days left before the opening of the first ever European Games, to be held in Baku from June 12-18, 2015, this is an opportune moment for the Azerbaijani government to release all those detained under politically motivated charges, signalling a first step towards establishing greater respect for civil liberties in the country. We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply. Yours sincerely, Arnold Amber, CJFE President Cc: Mr. John Holmes, Ambassador of Canada to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan The Honourable Rob Nicholson, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs
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