Azerbaijani human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus allowed to leave for the Netherlands

April 19, 2016

Two of Azerbaijan‘s most prominent human rights defenders have arrived in the Netherlands after the authorities in Baku suddenly granted them permission to leave.

Leyla and Arif Yunus in happier times
Leyla and Arif Yunus 
RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service reported on 19 April 2016 that Leyla Yunus and her husband, Arif, were greeted by their daughter, Dinara Yunus, who lives in the Netherlands, upon landing at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on April 19, according to Dutch media reports. Welcoming the two, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said Leyla and Arif Yunus, who are seeking asylum in the Netherlands, “had put their own safety and happiness at stake in the struggle for democracy and human rights“.

Leyla Yunus and Arif Yunus were sentenced to 8 1/2 and 7 years in prison, respectively, in August 2015 for “fraud” and other purported crimes related to their NGO work. Toward the end of 2015, the Yunuses were released from jail and their sentences were suspended due to their poor health [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/one-of-azerbaijans-key-human-rights-defenders-leyla-yunus-freed-now-the-others/]. The decision by authorities in Azerbaijan to let them travel comes as something of a surprise as last month an appeals court in Baku still ruled the two could not travel to Europe because of their suspended prison terms.

Other activists, journalists, and government critics — including investigative journalist and RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova — remain imprisoned in Azerbaijan on charges that Western officials and international rights groups have called politically motivated.

Source: Prominent Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders Allowed To Leave

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