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Ministry of Interior withdraws lawsuit filed against human rights defender Leyla Yunus

(IRFS/IFEX) - The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) applauds the Azerbaijani Ministry of Interior's decision to withdraw Minister Ramil Usubov's lawsuit against human rights defender Leyla Yunus. The withdrawal of this lawsuit was announced in a court hearing held on 2 March 2009.

Minister Usubov had alleged that Yunus, the director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, had damaged his business reputation when she said, in an interview to , that police might have been involved in the disappearance of two sisters from the Devechi region of Azerbaijan. The Minister of Interior was seeking the publication of a refutation from Yunus, as well as a 100,000 AZN (approx. US$124,000) fine against the human rights defender.

IRFS believes that through this act of withdrawing his lawsuit, Minister Usubov has shown newfound respect for freedom of expression and set an example that should be followed by other officials. In 2007, Usubov was known throughout the local and international community as the Azerbaijani official with the most lawsuits against journalists and mass media, so his action with regards to this case represents a new and positive tendency. IRFS notes that government officials, as public figures using and spending public funds, are subject to public scrutiny and criticism, an integral part of public participation in democratic society.

Updates the Yunus case:

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