Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (19 March) on this year’s Novruz amnesty by the President of Azerbaijan:
I very much welcome the fact that President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has pardoned a large number of political prisoners as part of this year’s amnesty. They include many people for whose release we, too, have campaigned.
The President grants pardons every year to mark the Novruz festivities in spring. This year, several hundred prisoners were released, including dozens of political prisoners. This is a heartening development for the people released, for their families and for Azerbaijan.
Freedom of the press, freedom of opinion and freedom of assembly are subject to multiple restrictions in Azerbaijan. The journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who was presumably abducted in Georgia in 2017 and thereafter sentenced to six years imprisonment in Azerbaijan, is sadly not among those pardoned. I therefore call on the Azerbaijani authorities to release all remaining political prisoners.
Azerbaijan ranks 163 out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index. The activities of non‑governmental organisations are severely curtailed by the country’s legislation.