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U.S. 'Concerned' After Azerbaijani Human Rights Activist Charged With Treason

Azerbaijani human rights activist Leyla Yunus (file photo)
Azerbaijani human rights activist Leyla Yunus (file photo)

The United States has voiced "deep concern" after Azerbaijani authorities charged prominent human rights activist Leyla Yunus with treason.

Yunus, 57, was arrested on July 30 and sent to pre-trial detention for three months.

A fierce critic of Azerbaijan's poor rights record, she was charged with treason, tax evasion, documents forgery, and fraud, and sent to pre-trial detention for three months.

Her 59-year-old husband, Arif Yunus, faces similar charges.

The Prosecutor General's office said on July 31 that the two were involved in passing classified information to Armenian agents via Azerbaijani journalist Rauf Mirkadirov, who was arrested and charged with treason in April.

Tensions between Baku and Yerevan remain high over Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the charges “represent a further restriction on peaceful civil society activities in Azerbaijan."

In a statement, she called on Baku to ensure Arif Yunus and her husband are “afforded all the fair trial guarantees to which all citizens are entitled, and allow them to freely express their views in accordance with international human rights commitments."

Human Rights Watch said the charges "are bogus and intended to silence them.”

The New York-based group’s deputy chief for Europe and Central Asia, Rachel Denber, called for an end to "this campaign of intimidation against Azerbaijan's leading human rights defenders."

On his Twitter account, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, called the charges a reminder of the difficulties rights defenders face in Azerbaijan.

Yunus, the founding director of non-registered Peace and Democracy Institute in Baku, has been actively involved for years in people-to-people diplomacy with Armenian rights activists.

She has won several foreign prizes and honors for her work.

With reporting by AFP, AP and

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