The Azerbaijani authorities today released prominent human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev in what Amnesty International billed an overdue step towards righting the injustice against him and all remaining prisoners of conscience.
Intigam Aliyev, head of the NGO Legal Education Society and a vocal government critic, was arrested in August 2014.
In April 2015, according to Amnesty, he was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on trumped-up charges of tax avoidance, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of power, amid a crackdown on dissident voices in Azerbaijan.
Authorities also raided and closed his NGO that helped victims of politically motivated persecution and represented them at the European Court of Human Rights.
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“Prisoner of conscience Intigam Aliyev has paid dearly for his frontline human rights work – the only ‘crime’ he committed was to defend his fellow citizens’ freedoms,” said Denis Krivosheev, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.
“After more than a year and a half in prison, his release is welcome, but he must now be fully cleared of all charges and allowed to resume his work. Without this, there will be no justice for this resolute defender of human rights in Azerbaijan.”
On 17 March, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev signed an order to release 10 other prisoners of conscience as part of a wider amnesty. Today’s release leaves seven prisoners of conscience behind bars in the country.
Amnesty says it will continue to call for their immediate and unconditional release.
Photo courtesy: Intigam Aliyev