Azerbaijani authorities released Leyla Yunus from jail on humanitarian grounds due to her deteriorating health conditions. Her jail sentence has been suspended and she has been placed on probation for 5 years. Despite being released from prison, Leyla still faces charges of treason, tax evasion and fraud.
Call for the freedom of Leyla Yunus, Azerbaijani human rights activist, who has been imprisoned for almost a year.
Prominent human rights activist Leyla Yunus was arrested in July 2014 after opposing the decision to host the first European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. In a letter to the European Olympic Committees, she pointed out the government’s extensive human rights abuses. Yunus reminded the committees that the Olympics’ founding values of peace and justice are contradicted by hosting the games in an authoritarian country like Azerbaijan. Shortly after this, Azerbaijani officials arrested her.
Leyla was charged with a series of crimes, including high treason, espionage, and illegal business activities among others. Human Rights Watch and other groups have denounced the arrests as politically motivated and part of a general effort to silence human rights defenders.
While in prison, Azerbaijani authorities have denied Leyla adequate health care, causing her health to deteriorate dramatically. Her husband, arrested on similar charges, also suffers severe medical conditions and is too being denied sufficient medical care. Local advocates have expressed serious concern for the health of the Yunuses.
Leyla is the founding Director of Peace and Democracy Institute in Baku. She has been actively involved in people-to-people diplomacy with Armenian human rights activists. Her work aims at promoting peace and dialogue, rule of law, addressing unlawful evictions, women’s rights and political prisoners freedom.