Release of jailed bloggers "a positive step."
Two jailed Azerbaijani bloggers have been released by order of courts in Azerbaijan. Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade were convicted in November 2009 on charges stemming from a fight in a restaurant in Baku in July of that year. Both men charge that their convictions were punishment for political dissent posted on the Internet.
The United States Embassy in Baku called the release of the bloggers "a positive step," noting that the U.S. Government "has shown a strong interest in the cases of Hajizade and Milli, as evidenced by both President [Barack] Obama and Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton publicly calling for their release."
Meanwhile Eynulla Fatullayev, founder and editor of the Russian-language weekly Realny Azerbaijan and the Azeri-language daily Everyday Azerbaijan remains in prison. In July of this year, Mr. Fatullayev was convicted of alleged drug possession and sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment. He was already serving an eight and a half year sentence on charges of terrorism, incitement to racial hatred and tax evasion – all charges which the European Court of Human Rights acquitted him of earlier this year. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's representative on media freedom characterized the drug charges against Mr. Fatullayev as "highly improbable." The U.S. Embassy in Baku expressed hope "for a speedy release of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev."
An independent judiciary, free from political influence and a vibrant civil society are cornerstones of a modern democratic state. The United States remains committed to working with the government and people of Azerbaijan to advance democratic reforms, including on freedom of expression and association.