International organizations have welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan to release jailed human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev after nearly a year in prison.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement on March 29 that Aliyev's release was "an important and positive step for human rights in Azerbaijan, for Mr. Aliyev’s own sake and for the sake of the many persons whom he continues to defend."
Aliyev was freed on March 28 after the Supreme Court commuted a 7 1/2-year prison sentence against Aliyev, paving the way for his release.
Amnesty International said on March 29 that Aliyev's "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.”
Aliyev, 53, was arrested in August 2014 and convicted of illegal business activity, tax evasion, abuse of authority, and other charges in April 2015.
Aliyev has always denied the charges as politically motivated and his lawyers have been demanding that the criminal case against him be fully dismissed.
He founded the Legal Education Society in 1998 to provide legal assistance to marginalized groups, and has represented many Azerbaijani activists and human rights defenders.
Aliyev was announced the winner of the International Bar Association's Human Rights Award in 2015.
Earlier, the U.S. State Department and the European Union also welcomed Aliyev's release.
The State Department urged the government in Baku "to release other individuals who have been incarcerated for exercising their fundamental freedoms."
Azerbaijan is widely criticized by Western governments and organizations for its crackdown on dissent and imprisonment of activists and government opponents.
On March 17, President Ilham Aliyev pardoned 148 prisoners, including several human rights defenders and opposition activists and politicians.