Commenting on the amnesty announced by President Aliyev, Markus Löning, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement in Berlin today (21 March):
“I welcome the fact that President Aliyev has pardoned 62 persons in the run‑up to this year’s spring holiday. I am particularly pleased that two political prisoners will be released early. Foreign Minister Westerwelle had called for the release of political prisoners during his visit to Azerbaijan.
It is however disappointing that President Aliyev did not have the courage to release all political prisoners. According to civil rights organizations, several dozen people are still incarcerated because they campaigned for freedom and democracy in the country. This would have been a great opportunity for the President to grant an audacious amnesty and clearly embrace the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights.
I call on the Azerbaijani authorities to release all political prisoners without delay and to protect the right of freedom of expression. In this context let me expressly refer to the musicians arrested just a few days ago and the brave journalist Khadija Ismailova, who is being blackmailed in a most repugnant manner.”
A total of 62 people were pardoned; 55 of them have been released from prison. These include two people who were classified as political prisoners. They are Elnur Israfilov, who participated in the opposition protests on 2 April 2011, and Ruslan Bashirli, the Chairman of the youth movement “Yeni Fikir”.
The amnesty did not live up to expectations. Observers had assumed that several if not all of the 13 participants in the 2 April demonstrations would be given their liberty.