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U.S. Welcomes Azerbaijan's Release Of Activists, Urges More

The United States has welcomed a decision by Azerbaijani authorities to release several activists from prison but urged Baku to release others.

The U.S. State Department said in a March 19 press release that many people still remain incarcerated in Azerbaijani prisons for their civic activities.

Among them are rights activist Leyla Yunus, whose husband is also jailed; Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist and RFE/RL contributor; human rights lawyer Intiqam Aliyev; and youth activist Rasul Cafarov.

It said releasing these activists would "demonstrate the government's adherence to the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's] and other international commitments to uphold the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens."

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev pardoned more than 100 people on March 18 ahead of Norouz, the New Year holiday.

Among those pardoned were Orxan Eyyubzade, a prominent blogger; Basir Suleymanli, a leader of an election-monitoring NGO; and activist Anar Qasimli.