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Leyla Yunus: Azerbaijani authorities use family members of human rights defenders as hostages

The head of Women’s Crisis Center, Azerbaijani human rights defender Matanat Azizova who has passed as a witness in the case of journalist Rauf Mirkadirov and has undergone pressure from the investigation, hasn’t committed any crime, according to Azerbaijani news agency Turan, today in the press conference the head of the Institute for Peace and Democracy Leyla Yunus said. According to her there was no court decision prohibiting Azizova to leave the country.

Yunus noted that during her stay in Azerbaijan, Matanat Azizova was interrogated for 8-10 hours, she was forced to sign some documents, was pressured, and for this reason she left the country.

"Matanat Azizova did not flee the country or hide from the investigation. She will not testify because she hasn’t committed any crime and therefore itself an investigation is unreasonable,” continued Yunus.

It was Yunus who as a member of the international human rights organization "Front-Line", adopted decision that Azizova should leave Azerbaijan, Yunus said.

Leyla Yunus called a flagrant violation of the law the fact that one of these days Azizova’s husband and wife was not given a permission to leave Azerbaijan. "There is not any decision against these people, their names are not on a specific crime, for whatever reason they cannot leave the country? It was committed by the Investigation Department of the Attorney General for Serious Crimes, which does not have such powers,” said Yunus.

According to her in this way the prosecutor's office wants to return Azizova to Azerbaijan, that’s why her husband and son are made as hostages. "Their hopes are in vain if they think that it will help them to return Azizova to the country,” Yunus said noting that on May 23 she announced a campaign to protect the rights of Azizova’s family members.

Samira Agayeva, a representative of Azizova, on her turn said that she spoke with the investigators who banned Azizova’s husband and son to leave the country. However, the investigators said they have no authority to give such instructions. Samir Agayeva is going to sue border services, the article reads.

The mother of the head of Women Crisis Center Matanat Aziziova human rights activist Mirvari Gahramanli expressed concern about threats to the life of her daughter, son-in-law and grandson. She said that the responsibility for any hard-hitting against her family members will be assigned to the official Baku. Gahramanli also said that her documents to her house, the cottage, as well as her grandson’s computer, has not been returned back yet, although she does not have any relation to the lawsuit. She said that law enforcement bodies are thieves.

As Azerbaijani news agency APA reports, Gahramanli also said, "I told my daughter not to return to Azerbaijan earlier than after 3 months, even if I die.” To the question in what country her daughter currently lives she answered that "I speak with Matanat quite frequently. Currently she is getting medical treatment in another country. I don’t want to tell where exactly she is as I’m afraid that she will be kidnapped.”

Besides, according to Turan, Leyla Yunus said that the case against Mirkadirov is totally false. She noted that the "criminal” investigation team was formed to investigate the case. Yunus drew attention to the fact that the same group of the Investigative Department for Serious Crimes Prosecutor General's Office led "political case” against the leader REAL Ilgar Mammadov, activists of NIDA, head of the Elections Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDSC) Anar Mammedli.

Later Leyla Yunus gave several recommendations to the reporters that are summoned in the case of Rauf Mirkadirov. Particularly, she recommended not to sign a non-disclosure document and immediately publish the information they gave to the investigation.

Note that Azizova is the head of Women’s Crisis Center which is a partner organization to the Institute for Peace and Democracy led by Leyla Yunus. Earlier this month Azerbaijani prosecutors raided Azizova’s apartment. Azizova is currently out of the country. On May 22 on the Azerbaijani-Georgian border when leaving for Georgia Azizova’s husband and son were detained.

Note that in the evening of April 28 in the airport of Baku while departing to Doha famous Azerbaijani human rights activist Leyla Yunus and her husband conflictologist Arif Yunus were detained. They intended to fly to Paris, then to Brussels by the invitation of EU to participate in an international event. Leyla Yunus was taken to the Department of Grave Crimes of Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s office for questioning, where she spent 9 hours. Her husband who was detained with her was hospitalized in pre-infarction condition. Search of Yunus’ apartment and IPD office was conducted.

Note that Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Nils Muiznieks, U.S. State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan and human rights organizations, such as the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and the International Federation of Human Rights Organizations (FIDH) have condemned the detention of human rights activist Leyla Yunus in Baku.

Earlier in Baku the journalist of Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo Rauf Mirkadirov was arrested. He was accused of conducting espionage for Armenia.



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