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Lawyers, Activists Urge EU Magnitsky Act At European Parliament

Azerbaijani activist Leyla Yunus was one of those who urged the European Parliament to adopt legislation similar to the U.S. Magnistsky Act. (file photo)

BRUSSELS -- Lawyers and activists from ex-Soviet republics on February 20 urged the European Union to adopt legislation mirroring a U.S. law aimed at punishing officials for corruption and rights abuses anywhere in the world.

The speakers at a European Parliament event in Brussels included Azerbaijani activist Leyla Yunus, who was convicted by Azerbaijan in a case that drew international condemnation, and Kazakh lawyer Botagoz Jardemalie, who has been granted political asylum in Belgium.

They called for an EU version of the Global Magnitsky Act, a 2016 law modeled on another law passed four years earlier that specifically targeted Russians deemed by Washington to be complicit in human rights abuses.

Jardemalie, who formerly represented fugitive Kazakh tycoon Mukhtar Ablyazov and alleges her brother was illegally detained and tortured by Kazakh authorities, said that an EU version of law was "the only real mechanism that exists to stop high-profile human rights abusers."

Yunus told the event that her lawyer in Azerbaijan has lost his job, "but the people that beat us and tortured my husband have a good career."

She and her husband, Arif Yunus, were arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 8 1/2 and 7 years in prison, respectively, for alleged economic crimes. They were released on medical grounds and have lived in the Netherlands since April 2016.

The United States in December imposed financial and travel restrictions on 52 government-linked people from Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere, as part of its first sanctions listing under the Global Magnitsky Act.

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.