Human Rights Watch has called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to urge Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to free all jailed journalists, rights activists, and government critics when the two leaders meet on January 21.
Hugh Williamson, HRW's director for Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement on January 20 that Merkel should give Aliyev a message that there is a "direct link" between closer political and economic ties with Europe and the release of jailed journalists and advocates.
HRW said that Azerbaijani officials jailed 34 government critics in 2014 and passed restrictive laws against independent groups and NGOs.
Williamson said Merkel could "make a difference" in freeing those jailed by pressing their cases with Aliyev when she meets him in Berlin.
Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist and contributor to RFE/RL, is being held in pretrial detention on suspicion of inciting a man to attempt suicide. Her supporters say the case is politically motivated.
RFE/RL's bureau in Baku was raided and shut down by the authorities in December.