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,

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.

Azerbaijan: Both 'Donkey Bloggers' Are Free!

It is rare to have back-to-back good news on human rights from Azerbaijan. This week is an exception, though. Remember how the Amnesty International USA intern, born in Azerbaijan, shared her happy tears with us about her friend Adnan Hajizade’s release yesterday? Well, there is more cause for celebration – Adnan’s colleague and fellow digital dissenter and prisoner of conscience Emin Abdullayev Milli is also a free man.

‘Donkey bloggers’ Adnan and Emin reunited after release (via Global Voices Online)

While Adnan’s and Emin’s release is great news, Azerbaijan has a long way to come clean with the oppression of dissenters, including that of the ‘Donkey bloggers.’ The young bloggers’ fabricated conviction of hooliganism (which was actually for a YouTube video in donkey-suit mocking corruption in Azerbaijan), for one, must be overturned. And, most urgently, Azerbaijan must release imprisoned journalist and human rights defender (I would also add, peace activist) Eynulla Fatullayev.

Ask Obama to Help Donkey Bloggers

A year after being arrested for digital dissent (official charge was “hooliganism”) including a YouTube conference in donkey suit mocking Azerbaijan’s government, bloggers Emin Milli (Abdullayev) and Adnan Hajizade are still behind bars.

Now, Adnan’s father and Emin’s wife have drafted a petition asking US President Barack Obama “to raise this issue in [his] discussions with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and call for the release of Hajizada and Milli” during the upcoming 65th United Nations General Assembly in New York.

I just signed the letter and ask you to do the same (click here to sign the letter).

The bloggers’ relatives need 1,000 signatures by September 20th.

For more background on the bloggers, see my earlier post.