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Azerbaijani rights advocate Leyla Yunus was detained in Baku with her husband last month.
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (Democrat-Maryland) has expressed concern over the situation faced by a prominent Azerbaijani human rights defender and her husband.

In a statement on May 30, Cardin, who is the chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe -- also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission -- said the situation faced by Leyla Yunus and her husband, Arif Yunus, "is a troubling indication that they may become the targets of a politically motivated prosecution."

Leyla Yunus, the director of the Peace and Democracy Institute in Azerbaijan, told journalists on May 30 that she feared arrest after refusing to appear for interrogation earlier that day, demanding that her and her husband's passports be returned first.

Police detained the couple at the Baku airport last month on their way to Qatar and confiscated their passports.

They were later released after being questioned in connection with the arrest of a local journalist charged with spying for Armenia.
Anar Mammadli (right) was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison, while his deputy, Bashir Suleymanli (left), received a 3 1/2-year prison term.
The U.S. Embassy in Baku has expressed concern over the sentencing of Anar Mammadli, the chairman of the country's Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center.

In a statement on May 30, the U.S. Embassy called the charges against Mammadli and two of his associates "highly questionable" and called the convictions "a major setback to Azerbaijan’s democratic development."

On May 26, Mammadli was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for tax evasion, illegal business activities, and using his office to falsify election results, while the center's executive director, Basir Suleymanli, received a 3 1/2-year prison term on the same charges.

Another co-defendant, Elnur Mammadov, the director of the Union for International Cooperation of Volunteers, received a two-year suspended sentence.

Mammadli's organization monitored elections in Azerbaijan last autumn and exposed widespread irregularities and fraud during balloting and vote-counting.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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