Swiss fly out op­po­si­tion jour­nal­ist hid­ing at its Baku em­bassy

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Switzer­land has flown out of Azer­bai­jan an op­po­si­tion jour­nal­ist who had been shel­ter­ing for 10 months at its em­bassy in Baku, of­fi­cials said Satur­day, a day af­ter the in­au­gu­ral Euro­pean Games opened in the tightly con­trolled ex-Soviet coun­try.

Emin Huseynov flew out of Azer­bai­jan on the plane of Switzer­land’s top diplo­mat Di­dier Burkhal­ter, who at­tended the Euro Games cer­e­mony in Baku late on Fri­day, the fed­eral depart­ment of for­eign af­fairs said.

His de­par­ture came af­ter months of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Azer­bai­jani au­thor­i­ties, depart­ment spokesman Jean-Marc Crevoisier told the ATS news agency.

The 35-year-old jour­nal­ist and rights ac­tivist was cur­rently in Bern, did not for the mo­ment wish to speak to the me­dia and has un­til Septem­ber to de­cide whether he wants to ap­ply for asy­lum in Switzer­land, Crevoisier was quoted as say­ing.

A fierce critic of au­thor­i­tar­ian Pres­i­dent Il­ham Aliyev’s hu­man rights record, Huseynov has been shel­ter­ing at the Swiss em­bassy in Baku since Aug. 18, 2014 when he evaded Azer­bai­jani po­lice to en­ter the build­ing pos­ing as a Swiss na­tional.

At the time, the ac­tivist had been sought by pros­e­cu­tors on charges of “il­le­gal en­trepreneur­ship and tax eva­sion.”

Switzer­land al­lowed him to re­main at its em­bassy for “hu­man­i­tar­ian rea­sons.”

The United States wel­comed the Azer­bai­jani gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to al­low Huseynov, “a coura­geous pro­po­nent of me­dia free­dom,” to leave the coun­try but called for the re­lease of other de­tained ac­tivists.

“While we are pleased by this ges­ture, timed with the launch of the in­au­gu­ral Euro­pean Games in Baku, we urge the Azer­bai­jani gov­ern­ment to ex­tend this same good will to oth­ers con­sid­ered to have been in­car­cer­ated for their civic ac­tivism,” State Depart­ment spokesman John Kirby said in a state­ment.

En­ergy- rich Azer­bai­jan has pumped vast re­sources into host­ing the first edi­tion of the Euro­pean Games sport­ing ex­trav­a­ganza billed as Europe’s an­swer to the Olympics from June 12-28, build­ing state-of-the-art fa­cil­i­ties in a bid to bur­nish its im­age.

But in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal rights ac­tivists have been us­ing cov­er­age of the glitzy event to draw the world’s at­ten­tion to the wide­spread rights abuses in the Cau­ca­sus coun­try.

Rights groups ac­cuse Aliyev’s gov­ern­ment of con­sis­tently us­ing spu­ri­ous charges to jail regime crit­ics and of step­ping up a cam­paign to sti­fle op­po­si­tion since his elec­tion for a third term in 2013.

Aliyev, 53, came to power in 2003 fol­low­ing an elec­tion seen as flawed by in­ter­na­tional ob­servers.

He took over af­ter the death of his fa­ther Hey­dar Aliyev, a for­mer KGB of­fi­cer and com­mu­nist-era leader who had ruled newly in­de­pen­dent Azer­bai­jan with an iron fist since 1993.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.