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Azerbaijan strongman pardons jailed activists, opponents

AFP , Saturday 16 Mar 2019
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Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Saturday pardoned dozens of jailed rights activists and political opponents as part of a broader amnesty, his office said.

Among the 50 pardoned were Elgiz Qahraman, Bayram Mammadov and Qiyas Ibrahimov of the Nida youth opposition movement and journalist Fikrat Faramazoglu.

Leading opposition figures Fuad Qahramanli, Gozal Bayramli, and Alikram Xursudov were also among those pardoned.

In all, amnesty covers a total of 431 people, according to Aliyev's decree published on his website.

Under Aliyev, Azerbaijan has faced strong international criticism for silencing dissent and opposition media. Human Rights Watch has accused it of "cracking down on human rights activists and critical journalists".

Last year, he secured a fourth consecutive presidential term with 86 percent of the vote, in elections criticised by international observers.

He has ruled the oil-rich Caspian state since he was first elected in 2003, after the death of his father, Azerbaijan's Soviet-era Communist leader and former KGB general Heydar Aliyev.

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