Azerbaijan: Police continue to harass human rights activist

IMAGE: The Caucasian Knot

IMAGE: The Caucasian Knot

Lelya Yunus, president of the Azerbaijani NGO the Institute for Peace and Democracy and a leading human rights defender in Azerbaijan, has reported continued harassment of her and her family by Azerbaijan’s police force.

On April 28th Yunus and her husband were detained while attempting to board a flight to Brussells, their passports were confiscated and have yet to be returned.

Since then the police have searched the couples’ home, the offices of the Institute for Peace and Democracy and have regularly interrogated Yunus on a number of topics.

Yunus’ harassment is likely to have arisen as a response to her NGO’s activist work though it is not certain if government officials have sanctioned the actions by police.

It is also believed that several of the interrogations have been in connection to Rauf Mirgadyov, a journalist currently being held without charge that Yunus is thought to have worked with in the past.

As well as interrogations and illegal searches Yunus has accused officials of threatening to rape her and of male officers forcing their way into a toilet while she was using it. When questioned on their actions one official is said to have told a reporter “She is not a woman. She is not an Azerbaijani woman. She is Armenian”.

The case of Lelya Yunus was brought to international attentions after the human rights group Amnesty International launched a campaign to end her persecution earlier this week.

Amnesty called for authorities to cease all harassment of Yunus and her family and called upon its supporters to write to the Azerbaijani government in a campaign that it called an ‘urgent action’.

It is feared that if action is not taken that Yunus will join the ever-growing list of journalists and activists detained by Azerbaijani authorities.

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