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Council Of Europe Warns Azerbaijan To Free Opposition Leader Or Face Legal Action


Ilqar Mammadov

The Council of Europe has notified Azerbaijan that it will take unprecedented legal steps against Baku unless it releases imprisoned political leader Ilqar Mammadov by November 29.

Mammadov, an opposition politician and rights activist who heads Azerbaijan's Republican movement, was arrested in February 2013 and charged with helping organize riots. Western governments and rights groups have decried the charges as politically motivated.

Mammadov was sentenced to seven years in prison in March 2014. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in May 2014 that his imprisonment was a violation of his rights and was intended to silence or punish him for criticizing the government.

The Council of Europe said Mammadov was the only such political prisoner who has not been released after winning such a ruling from the European rights court. Council of Europe members are obliged to implement the court's judgments.

Azerbaijan's noncompliance has prompted the council's Committee of Ministers to launch what it said was the first-ever process for referring the case back to the court to decide whether the continued detention of Mammadov represents a further rights violation.

The committee on October 25 gave Baku until November 29 to either release Mammadov or it will discuss sending the case back to the rights court for a second ruling.

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