Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has pardoned 148 people serving jail terms.
Several human rights defenders and opposition activists and politicians were among those pardoned in the amnesty decree signed by Aliyev on March 17.
In a statement, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini welcomed the move as a “positive development which we have long awaited.”
“The European Union hopes that further steps will follow leading to the full release and rehabilitation of all those currently imprisoned or under restriction of movement in Azerbaijan on political grounds,” she added.
Prominent investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who is serving 7 1/2 years in jail on embezzlement and tax evasion charges, was not among those pardoned.
Ismayilova, a contributor to RFE/RL, was sentenced in September on charges widely believed to be retribution for her reports on corruption involving senior government officials.
Ilqar Mammadov, head of the Republican Alternative movement, was also not pardoned.
Mammadov was arrested in February 2013 and charged with helping organize riots in the town of Ismayilli, northwest of Baku. He was sentenced to 7 years in jail in March 2014.
Mammadov also insists that the case against him is politically motivated.