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Rene van der Linden (file) (Council of Europe)
July 10, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A top representative with Europe's main human rights body has called on Azerbaijan to improve its election laws and ensure next year's presidential elections meet international standards.
Rene Van der Linden, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, spoke in Baku at the end of a weeklong tour of the South Caucasus.
Van der Linden said free and fair elections were the basic condition of democratic development and that it was of the "utmost importance" next year's poll marked a striking difference with the 2005 parliamentary elections.
The United States, the European Union, and others had criticized that poll for failing to meet international standards, citing problems with the vote count and interference by local authorities.
Van der Linden also called for the release of any jailed journalists and alleged political prisoners who are in bad health.