2014 AS Isabel Santos 2Chairperson Isabel SantosCOPENHAGEN, 9 December 2015 – The Chairperson of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal), today welcomed the release from prison of Azerbaijani rights activist Leyla Yunus on humanitarian grounds.

“Leyla Yunus’s health was in rapid decline, and so I welcome this humane gesture by the court. Of course, the international community remains convinced that she did not deserve to spend a single day behind bars, and was punished for daring to call on the Azerbaijani government to live up to its commitments.

“I note that Ms. Yunus, as well as her husband, still remain convicted and still face treason charges, despite their release. Dropping these convictions and charges would be a significant step in the right direction for Azerbaijan,” Chairperson Santos said.

Leyla Yunus was sentenced to 8½ years in prison in August on charges that included fraud and tax evasion. Her husband, Arif, was sentenced to 7 years in prison on similar charges.

Yunus is the director of the unregistered Institute for Peace and Democracy, which defends political prisoners, exposes corruption and rule-of-law issues, and promotes people-to-people contacts between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Santos also renewed her call for the release of other rights defenders and journalists who remain jailed in Azerbaijan on politically motivated charges and urged the government to uphold its OSCE commitments in the spheres of human rights and democracy.

She expressed her continued openness to constructive engagement with Azerbaijan’s authorities on these matters.