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Minister sues activist for slander

(IRFS/IFEX) - The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the lawsuit filed against Institute for Peace and Democracy director Leyla Yunus by the minister of the interior, Ramil Usubov, and considers this step the beginning of a campaign of repression to silence human rights defenders.

On 13 January 2008, Interior Minister Usobov filed a lawsuit against Yunus at the Nasimi District Court, demanding that she "be held responsible" and that she "refute the slanderous information that damaged (his) honour and dignity." A preliminary hearing on the case has been scheduled for 23 January at 3:00 p.m. (local time).

The lawsuit signed by the minister alleges that on 3 December Yunus slandered the Internal Affairs Ministry during an interview with the website. In the interview, Yunus said that, "most of the time Azerbaijani courts adopt illegal and unfounded decisions on issues related to the defence of human rights and basic freedoms" ( ). The minister, claiming that the interview was damaging to the image of the police, asked Yunus to issue a refutation and pay 100,000 AZN (approx. US$124,000) compensation in damages.

IRFS considers the lawsuit against Yunus to be an attempt to stifle the voices of human rights defenders and other civil society representatives who are critical of the government. IRFS also considers the actions against human rights defenders, the illegal imprisonment of journalists, the ban on broadcasting of foreign radio networks in Azerbaijan and the desire for undemocratic changes to the constitution to be a serious blow to the international image and future development of the country.

IRFS calls on Usubov to withdraw his lawsuit against Yunus and demands that the Azerbaijani government respect human rights. The organisation also calls on the international community to ask the Azerbaijani government to fulfil its commitments in the areas of freedom of speech and human rights.

For further information on the decision to cease FM broadcasts of foreign radio stations, see:

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