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Azerbaijan Releases Opposition Activist Ahead Of Key Referendum

Natig Jafarli immediately after his release
Natig Jafarli immediately after his release

Azerbaijani authorities have released an opposition activist from jail, just weeks after his detention prompted international criticism in Europe, North America, and elsewhere.

Colleagues of Natig Jafarli, of the Republican Alternative Movement, said he was released from a Baku jail on September 9.

The head of the Republican movement, Ilqar Mammadov, remains in prison.

Jafarli was arrested on August 12, charged with “illegal entrepreneurship” and other charges that prosecutors said stemmed from a grant the Republican movement received from the U.S.-based nongovernmental organization, the National Democratic Institute.

The move comes ahead of a September 26 referendum scheduled in the tightly control South Caucasus country that will strengthen the authority of President Ilham Aliyev and likely prolong his rule.

The United States said it welcomed Jafarli's release and called for the release of Mammadov and others it considers to be political prisoners.

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