In the latest from Azerbaijan’s ongoing series of arrests of government critics, an outspoken rights defender, Leyla Yunus, has been arrested, and accused of spying for enemy Armenia.
Yunus never made a secret of her attempts to promote peace with Armenia through civilian initiatives, but what some call citizen diplomacy, Azerbaijani prosecutors called treason. Prosecutors claimed Yunus, who chairs the Institute for Peace and Democracy, was visiting Armenia to impart sensitive information. Her husband, Arif Yunus, was also charged on July 30, but was released pending trial.
Earlier this year, Leyla Yunus spoke up vocally for another imprisoned alleged enemy of the state, journalist Rauf Mirkadirov. Police then detained the Yunuses at the airport and have withheld their passports since. Leyla Yunus has defied several subpoena requests, until she was remanded on July 30. Prosecutors now accuse Yunus and Mirkadirov of spying together for Armenia.
Dismissing the allegations, a whole slew of international human rights group said that Yunus became yet another target in the ongoing binge of detentions of government critics. “Leyla Yunus is yet another independent voice in Azerbaijan, who, for a long time, the government has tried to silence through threats and intimidation. Failing to achieve this[,] they have now resorted to trumped up charges and detention in order to punish her for criticizing the government,” said Natalia Nozadze, Amnesty International’s researcher in Azerbaijan.