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U.S. Senators Call For Release Of Azerbaijani Activist

Jailed opposition activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev in custody in Baku in April
WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of five U.S. senators has urged Azerbaijan to release political activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev immediately.

In a letter to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, the senators called Hajiyev’s arrest and “cruel treatment” a breach of his rights to freedom of expression and association.

Hajiyev, 30, is a former parliamentary candidate in the November 2010 election in Azerbaijan and a Harvard University graduate. He was arrested in March 2011 ahead of a planned demonstration against the Azerbaijani government that he helped organize.

In May 2011, he was convicted of military service evasion and sentenced to two years in prison. He has served half of his term.

The senate signatories are led by Mark Kirk (Republican, Illinois) and Ben Cardin (Democrat, Maryland), and include Barbara Boxer (Democrat, California), Richard Blumenthal (Democrat, Connecticut), and Marco Rubio (Republican, Florida).