Human Rights Defender Leyla Yunus Arrested at the Airport (UPDATED) (VIDEO)

UPDATE: 30 April, Baku

After several hours, the interrogation of Leyla Yunus in the presence of lawyer Khalid Baghirov finished at 3 p.m. on April 29.

According to Mrs. Yunus the majority of questions were regarding

recently detained reporter of “Ayna-Zerkalo”

newspaper Rauf Mirkadirov.

“The questions were very simple and repetitive. Are you friends with Rauf and etc. They informed me that I will not be allowed into my apartment and office, if they don’t conduct the search. I am going home now, and I invite the journalists to come witness the search with me,” said Mrs. Yunus. She also said that no charges were pressed against her and her husband, and that she refused to sign the travel restriction presented to her. The authorities confiscated the Yunus’ passports.

Mrs. Yunus, who received France’s Legion of Honor award, is scheduled to meet with the human rights officer traveling with the French President Francois Hollande to Baku on May 17. According to Mrs. Yunus the reason she is being pressured by the authorities is that she was going to inform the human rights officer on political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, Novruz Mammadov, chief of the department of foreign relations of Administration of the President of Azerbaijan, commented on his involvement in the case. On April 28 Turan Information Agency reported that the Yunus’ were first released after Western diplomats gave Mr. Mammadov a call.

“Some website wrote that I told the authorities to let Leyla and Arif Yunus on the flight and then they were arrested on the plane. This is completely incorrect. It is a diversion,“ said Mr. Mammadov.

UPDATE: 30 April, Baku

Western officials issued statements regarding Mrs. Yunus’ arrest.

According to RFE/RL

, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski said he was aware of the case and that it was troubling to both him and the U.S. government. He said they were planning to convey the issue “privately and publicly to the Government of Azerbaijan.”

“We have a close partnership with the Government of Azerbaijan, and we would like to have a closer partnership because we feel that the partnership is important for the promotion of peace and stability in the region. But we have made it clear to the Government of Azerbaijan, and will make it clear again in light of [these] events that this is not the way to achieve stability.

In fact when you crack down on civil society, when you crack down on people who are expressing a peaceful criticism of government policies, you have less peace in your society and you fuel the very sources of violence and extremism that our governments are committed to oppose.”

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks expressed his opinion on the matter as well.

“Unfortunately, this is an additional example showing the extent of intimidation and repression of critical voices in Azerbaijan, a problem which I have repeatedly highlighted – most recently, through observations published last week — and asked the Azerbaijani authorities to address. The authorities must immediately halt such practice and take urgent measures to ensure that the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly are respected. As a member of the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan has the duty to comply with its human rights obligations and commitments.”

RFE/RL also reported the reaction of The British Embassy in Baku posted on its Facebook page:

“We were concerned to hear reports of Leyla and Arif Yunus having been detained yesterday. Leyla and Arif have worked closely with the British Embassy and we have funded projects run by the Yunus’ aimed at supporting a more conducive environment for the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

UPDATE: 29 April, Baku

At 2 a.m. on April 29, several police officers and plainclothes arrived to Leyla Yunus’s apartment and the office of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD). The organization’s employee and Mrs. Yunus’ lawyer Khalid Baghirov were not allowed to enter the office. Around 3 a.m., Mrs. Yunus and husband Arif Yunus were brought to their apartment. The head of the department of grave crimes investigation of the General Prosecutor’s office Ibrahim Lambaransky conducted a search in the apartment. However, the department head refused to show the search warrant to the owners. Mrs. Yunus insisted that members of civil society were present during the search and refused to let the police officers inside her apartment.

During the argument, Mr. Yunus’s health conditions worsened. Mr. Yunus, who recently undergone treatment in a hospital, was taken to the hospital. Speaking to journalists Leyla Yunus mentioned that during the previous treatment, her husband was forced to leave the hospital despite the fact that his condition did not improve.

According to Mrs. Yunus, the police officers who held the couple in custody for several hours did not allow them to use the restrooms, or provided them with food. Such conditions could contribute to Mr. Yunus’ condition and be highly dangerous for Mrs. Yunus diabetes.

Head of the Police Department of Yasamal District Ismail Asadov arrived to Yunus’ apartment building around 7 a.m. He warned Mrs. Yunus that she has to go to the prosecutor’s office, whether voluntarily or forcefully. However, neither the chief of police nor Mr. Lambaransky presented her an official document confirming the request.

Around 8 a.m. Mrs. Yunus together with her lawyer Mr. Baghirov went to the department of grave crimes investigation of the General Prosecutor’s office.

According to there is no information about the search in IPD’s office, which was cordoned by police officers with lights inside turned on.

UPDATE: 29 April, Baku

The U.S. Embassy in Baku has reported the arrest of Leyla Yunus and husband Arif Yunus to the U.S. State Department. According to Chris McCabe, official representative of the U.S. State Department: “The U.S. State Department has been notified instantly about the following situation and is actively tracking down its development.”

UPDATE: 28 April, Baku

Human rights defender Leyla Yunus and husband Arif Yunus were arrested in Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku on April 28.

According to, Mrs. and Mr. Yunus were told they were banned from traveling, when they tried to board the flight to Doha, Qatar. After the ambassador of France and deputy ambassador of the United States in Azerbaijan, who were accompanying the couple, interfered by contacting the Novruz Mammadov, chief of the department of foreign relations of Administration of the President, the Yunus’ were let go. However, they were taken into custody moments later, as they boarded the plane.

Four plainclothes attempted to interrogate the couple on camera, but they refused to cooperate without lawyer present, Mrs. Yunus told the media. They were told their luggage, office and apartment would be subject for search. Following the couple’s request, lawyer Khalid Baghirov agreed to represent them and rushed to the airport. According to APA, he was not allowed to see them yet.

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