BAKU -- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has pardoned more than 100 inmates ahead of Norouz, the New Year holiday, including three who were seen by government opponents and rights activists as political prisoners.
Dina’s son Botir was killed last September fighting in Syria for one of the Islamist groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Six months later, she is not only still struggling to cope with grief, but also facing harassment from Kyrgyzstan’s powerful secret police, the GKNB.
When it comes to authoritarian Uzbekistan’s dismal human rights record, the Obama administration says “strategic patience” should characterize its relationship with Tashkent. But the premise of strategic patience in Uzbekistan’s case is flawed because Tashkent plays by a different set of rules.
Azerbaijan currently holds a dubious distinction of holding almost double the number of political prisoners than those held in Belarus and Russia combined. The Azerbaijani government’s use of criminal prosecution as a tool for political retaliation against its critics is a well-documented problem.
Aman Sagidullaev fled Uzbekistan with his family in the summer of 2011. He had called for a referendum on independence for his native Karakalpakstan region in the country’s northwest. Apparently in response, Uzbek prosecutors charged him with embezzlement. After traveling to Russia, then to Kazakhstan, Sagidullaev has spent the last two years trying to obtain asylum in Kyrgyzstan.
Kazakhstan is scrambling to keep its diplomatic options open amid rapidly rising Western-Russian tension. Not wanting to get dragged down by Western sanctions imposed on Russia, Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s administration is ramping up an international charm offensive.