Azerbaijan releases youth activist

[JURIST] The Supreme Court in Azerbaijan on Monday ordered that youth activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev be released nine months early on the condition that he remain in the country. Hajiyev, a conscientious objector (CO), was imprisoned last March after he failed to register for mandatory military service. Advocacy group Freedom Now [advocacy website] said [press release] on Monday that they were pleased Hajiyev was released, but that they expected the government to "fully investigate Mr. Hajiyev's mistreatment while in detention and to allow Mr. Hajiyev to continue his important work promoting the cause of democratic reform in Azerbaijan." In May, a group of bipartisan US Senators wrote a letter [text, PDF] to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev [official website; BBC profile] expressing concern about Hajiyev's treatment and the government's failure to provide him the opportunity to pursue alternative public service, an option listed in the Azerbaijan Constitution [text, PDF]. The Supreme Court' decision to release Hajiyev comes two days before US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton [official website] is scheduled [travel information] to meet with Aliyev.

Hajiyev was arrested on March 4, 2011. After his arrest he was able to send a hand-written letter [RFE/RL report, in Azeri] to friends indicating that he had been abused and threatened by Azerbaijani police. Sarah Paulsworth, JURIST contributor and University of Pittsburgh Law student, criticized [JURIST Dateline] the government's treatment of Hajiyev and called for reform of the government's treatment of all COs seeking alternative public service.

 

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