Baku condemns ´interference” by European Parliament following call to free prisoners
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Baku condemns ´interference” by European Parliament following call to free prisoners

A European Parliament motion calling on Azerbaijan to free two prisoners facing fraud graft charges has been branded a “direct interference in a criminal investigation” by an Azerbaijani MP. The motion has been tabled by German Liberal MEP Alexander Graf Lambsdorff and the ALDE Group and will go to the vote on Thursday at Parliament´s monthly plenary in Strasbourg.

It calls for the release of Leyla Yunus and her husband who face a range of charges including embezzlement from a string of NGOs they host in Azerbaijan, a key energy partner for the EU.

Elkhan Suleymanov, Chairman of Azerbaijani Delegation to the Euronest PA, has attacked the motion, pointing out that the Leyla Yunus case stems from Baku’s campaign against corruption and graft.

Yanus was arrested in July and is accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of euros from charities with which she was involved,including the Institute for Peace and Democracy and the Society of Women of Azerbaijan for Peace and Democracy for the Transcaucasus.

Her husband Arif Yanus was arrested on charges of illegal entrepreneurship, abuse of power and tax evasion.

Suleymanov said these instances came to light as a result of legal reforms undertaken “in line with world’s best practices.”

He has accused some MEPs of wanting to “subvert due process” with the  motion.

“I would like to note that recent changes and amendments to the law aim at increasing transparency in the activity of non-governmental organizations,”  the MP said.

“These changes and amendments cover both public and private sector, and are the part of comprehensive measures towards the fight against corruption in all spheres of Azerbaijani society.”

Suleymanov, who campaigns for the rights of the million people displaced by the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories by Armenia, said “yet again” EU lawmakers were being “selective” with the issues on which they campaign.

“If Mr Lambsdorff and his ALDE colleagues really want to ensure human rights and fundamental freedoms, then why don’t they raise questions about the restoration of violated human rights of the hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani people as a consequence of Armenian occupation?” he asked in an open letter to the political group leaders of the European Parliament.

He noted that “this occupation persists” despite resolutions for Armenia to withdraw its troops from the occupied territories, adopted by international bodies including the European Parliament and the United Nations Security Council. He says that “all have been ignored.”

The parliamentary motion, he concluded, is a “distraction from this far more important issue.”

Critics of the motion say it is “ironic” coming amid attempts to forge closer relations with the EU´s Eastern neighbours, including this week´s far reaching trade deal with Ukraine.