WikiLeaks Cable: Azerbaijan President Asked to Release Activists… Sort of

Last week’s release of Adnan and Emin – two imprisoned youth activists in Azerbaijan – was discussed (at least once) with the Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev earlier this year. In a February 2010 exchange in a confidential cable released by WikiLeaks, Aliyev seems to tentatively agree to releasing the activists:

U/S Burns said that one of the ways Azerbaijan could
show leadership as a tolerant and secular country was in
advancing democracy and human rights. He specifically asked
that, following the appeal process of the two youth
activists, the President find a way on humanitarian grounds
to release the two men. Aliyev made no firm commitment, but
responded, “I think this can be done. I had no intention to
hurt anyone.”
When U/S Burns expressed the hope that the
government could quietly take this step, the President said,
“Okay.”

What’s eye-opening about the exchange is President Aliyev’s admission of his personal knowledge – if not responsibility – in the activists’ arrest and subsequent conviction of “hooliganism.”

It’s also interesting – if not unfortunate – how the US asks Azerbaijan to “quietly” release the youth activists on “humanitarian grounds.”

While we are all glad that Adnan and Emin are free, there is more justice to be done: their conviction must be overturned – not quietly or on humanitarian grounds but for human rights and democracy.

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