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Azerbaijan should free political prisoners before closing EU deal

Aliyev Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron greets Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev in a state visit where they discussed Azerbaijan-EU relations. Photo: azertag.az

Index on Censorship welcomed a European Parliament recommendation for the EU to ensure that Azerbaijan frees its political prisoners before negotiations on a new deal between the two are concluded.

The talks on the new agreement that will govern relations between the EU and Azerbaijan were launched in 2017 and could be concluded next year.

Azerbaijan has an extremely poor track record on human rights, as highlighted in a 2017 analysis by the European Parliament.

Joy Hyvarinen, head of advocacy at Index on Censorship, said: “We urge the EU to take a strong stand on media freedom and human rights in its talks on a new agreement with Azerbaijan. This is an opportunity for the EU to demonstrate global leadership and to promote fundamental European values. Freeing political prisoners such as investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli should be a priority.”

In fact, the European Parliament recommendation mentions the jailed investigative journalist as being among the “most emblematic cases”. It also calls on the EU to ensure that improving relations with Azerbaijan will be conditional on upholding and respecting democracy, the rule of law, good governance, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The European Parliament called on the EU to underline the importance of a free and independent media and to ensure strengthened EU support, both political and financial, for a free and pluralistic press in Azerbaijan.

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