May 15, 2012

Today, a bipartisan group of five United States Senators, led by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) request that President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan help facilitate the release of imprisoned democracy activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev. In the letter, attached, the Senators declared:

The arrest and cruel treatment of Mr. Hajiyev is a breach of his rights to freedom of expression and association, as well as his right to be free from inhuman treatment… In light of the flaws that have come to our attention regarding Mr. Hajiyev’s detention and treatment, as well as the fact that he has already served more than half of his sentence in a dutiful manner, we ask that you help facilitate Mr. Hajiyev’s immediate release.

Other signatories to the letter, which is attached, are Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner stated: “Given that Mr. Hajiyev has served more than a year in prison, we ask the Azerbaijani government to consider the Senators’ request and grant Mr. Hajiyev’s final appeal for early release. Mr. Hajiyev’s good behavior in prison, as well as his impressive scholarship and past leadership of Azerbaijani youth organizations makes him an excellent candidate for parole.”

Mr. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, 30, is a democracy activist and a former parliamentary candidate in the November 2010 election in Azerbaijan. He is also a recent graduate from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Following months of harassment by police and government officials, Mr. Hajiyev was arrested in March 2011 days before a planned peaceful demonstration against the Azerbaijani government that he helped to organize. On May 18, 2011, an Azerbaijani court wrongfully convicted him of military service evasion and sentenced him to two years in prison. His wrongful arrest, detention, and trial violate Azerbaijani law and Azerbaijan’s obligations under international law. Mr. Hajiyev’s final appeal for early parole is currently under consideration.