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EU Urges Azerbaijan To Release Detained Opposition Figures

Azerbaijan opposition politician Gozal Bayramli (file photo)
Azerbaijan opposition politician Gozal Bayramli (file photo)

The European Union has urged Azerbaijan to release detained opposition figures, in an apparent reference to the alleged abduction and arrest of a journalist critical of Baku and the detention of an opposition politician.

The statement on June 4 did not mention names but came after journalist Afqan Muxtarli was kidnapped in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, on May 29 and the arrest of opposition politician Gozal Bayramli.

On June 3, the U.S. State Department said the "United States is disturbed by the reported abduction in Tbilisi, Georgia, and subsequent arrest in Azerbaijan" of Muxtarli. It said it was "troubled" by the detention of Bayramli.

The EU statement said "a review by Azerbaijan of any and all cases of incarceration related to the exercise of fundamental rights, including the freedom of expression, and immediate release [of] all of those concerned is urgent.

"We expect that the due process of law is respected, as well as the civil and political rights of citizens and those residing legally in states other than their own," it added.

Muxtarli, 43, was jailed last week for a preliminary three months by an Azerbaijani court.

His attorney, Elcin Sadyqov, told RFE/RL his client was abducted in Tbilisi on May 29, tied up in a car, beaten by men in civilian clothing who spoke Georgian, and brought across the border into Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General's Office spokesman Eldar Sultanov said on May 31 that Muxtarli was detained on suspicion of illegally crossing the border, and alleged that he was in possession of a large amount of cash.

The EU said it welcomed the Georgian government's announcement that it would investigate the alleged kidnapping. Tbilisi denies it was involved in the case.

Muxtarli and his wife fled to Georgia in 2015, fearing for their safety over his investigations into Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's alleged links to corruption.

Bayramli, the deputy chief of the opposition Popular Front Party (AXCP), was arrested on May 25 after she crossed the border from Georgia into Azerbaijan, her party chairman said.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Georgian and Azerbaijani services, and AFP
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