As the trial re-commences of prominent human rights defender Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus, Transparency International, the global anti-corruption movement, calls for their immediate release.
A chorus of international observers has raised serious concerns over the wellbeing of both Leyla and Arif while in custody, as well as the potentially political nature of the trial.
Leyla Yunus was arrested on 30 July 2014 for alleged tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurial activities and other economic crimes, as well as treason. She faces years in prison if convicted on all charges. Leyla has diabetes and kidney problems, and authorities have not allowed her to be hospitalised or provided her with adequate medication; her health has deteriorated rapidly. Arif suffers from insomnia and high blood pressure.
Transparency International believes that both should be released on humanitarian grounds and because the conditions for a fair trial fall far short of internationally accepted standards.
The Council of Europe in its evaluation of Azerbaijan (published April 2015), reported: “Although the principles of independence and separation of powers are enshrined in the Constitution and key laws, the institutional set up grants particularly strong powers to the President and the executive, which exercise considerable influence on the legislature and the judiciary, including the Prosecutor’s Office.”
At the Court hearing many independent observers from the media and civil society organisations were not permitted entry into the courtroom.
Anne Koch, Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia at Transparency International, said: “The Government should demonstrate its commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights and immediately release Leyla and Arif Yunus.”