Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Azerbaijani Political Prisoner Leyla Yunus is Dying due to Denial of Medical Care

I met Arif Yunusov, an historian from Azerbaijan at a conference on Meskhetian Turks at METU (Middle East Technical University) in Ankara Turkey almost exactly 14 years ago. He was not only a valuable participant in the conference, but he was also an affable person and enjoyable partner for conversation, dinner, and drinking. Both he and his wife, Leyla Yunus, are also among other things long time human rights activists. On 30 July 2014 Leyla Yunus was arrested in Azerbaijan on charges of "high treason" and placed in pre-trial detention. On 5 August 2014 the Azerbaijani authorities also arrested Arif Yunusov on charges of "high treason" and placed him in pre-trial detention. The Azerbaijani security services claim that Arif and Leyla were engaged in espionage on behalf of Armenia.  Of course contacts between Azerbaijani and Armenian human rights and peace activists are not treason and the position of the government in Baku is typical of many authoritarian post-Soviet regimes such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Belarus. Currently Leyla Yunus is being denied needed medical attention and is as a result dying.  This type of barbarism should have ended in Azerbaijan when the USSR collapsed.

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