by Tatevik Shahunyan
Washington on Thursday voiced "deep concern" over arrest of prominent Azerbaijani human rights activist Leyla Yunus, and criminal charges against her and her husband, Arif Yunus, who were accused of high treason, tax evasion and other economic crimes, Turan reported.
"The criminal charges levied against prominent human rights defender Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus on July 30 are deeply concerning and represent a further restriction on peaceful civil society activities in Azerbaijan," Marie Harf, State Department's deputy spokesman said in a statement that was delivered to TURAN's Washington DC correspondent by the DoS' Press Office.
Ms. Yunus is being held in pre-trial detention despite a serious health condition. Mr. Yunus also has a serious health problem and is under house arrest.
"These charges appear to be connected with their participation in constructive people-to-people programs that aim to ease tensions and build confidence in the region," reads the statement.
"We urge the Government of Azerbaijan to respect the universal rights of its citizens, ensure they are afforded all the fair trial guarantees to which all citizens are entitled, and allow them to freely express their views in accordance with international human rights commitments and obligations," Harf emphasized.
Early in the day, the US Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, known as the Helsinki Commission, also released a statement on the criminal charges against Yunus family.
"The charges filed against the Yunus's are outrageous... Both Leyla and Arif are long-time supporters of people-to-people contact with Armenia, and the charge of espionage against them is absurd. We urge the Government of Azerbaijan to drop the charges and to stop the coordinated campaign aimed at the opposition, civil society and journalists in Azerbaijan who are peacefully exercising their right to freedom of speech and freedom of association," Commission's chairman Senator Ben Cardin, and Co-Chairman Chris Smith, said in a statement.