Opposition leader Tofig Yagublu, who was sent to home confinement after a 17 day-long hunger strike last week, has vowed to continue his fight for democratic freedoms in Azerbaijan.
“The strife continues, with more determination and confidence. I won't stop. We must fight until this regime leaves and the Azerbaijani people are free,” Yagublu, who was granted a conditional release, said shortly before he was sent home on Friday.
Yagublu, a member of the National Council and Musavat Party, suspended his 17-day hunger strike when his arrest was replaced by house arrest. An appeal for his release was issued by the Baku Court of Appeal on Friday so that he can receive treatment at home.
“After the court decision, I agreed to stop. Before that, I not only ate no food, but also refused medical care. Now, I eat based on a doctor advice,” Yagublu said, adding he needs more than two weeks to recover from the damage his starving caused.
The 59 year-old politician was convicted of hooliganism in early September and sentenced to four years and three months in prison. If the court upholds the decision of the Nizami district court the politician might be re-arrested and sent to prison again.
His family members and supporters called the conviction politically motivated.
Lawmaker Razi Nurullayev, a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, told Turan news agency that he appreciates the government move to take into account the publics demands about Yagublu.
“Today, one cannot say that the people's word does not count. If the people stand behind what they know is right and go forward to demand it, they can achieve it,” Nurullayev was quoted as saying.
According to him, many more serious changes have to be made in the justice system in Azerbaijan.
“No political tones should be heard in the decisions made, the issue should be based entirely on the law,” Nurullayev said.
“It is a very good decision,” Samad Seyidov, the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said.
“Most importantly, this decision is a concrete indicator of the careful approach of each branch of the government to public opinion,” Seyidov said, adding he believes the country is changing, and these changes are vital.
However, Anar Mammadli, a human rights activist and head of the Center for Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies, told RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service that Yagublu's house arrest is a shame for Azerbaijan.
“I consider the decision incomplete. Not a fair decision at all. The only decision to be made on Yagublu may be his acquittal and change of the decision of the Nizami district court,” Mammadli said.
Mammadli added that Yagublu was neither the first nor the last political prisoner in the country, and many people lost their freedom for political reasons after his arrest.
According to the human rights activist, the Azerbaijani government should learn from this incident and put an end to the tradition of arresting people on trumped-up charges for their critical views.
The Azerbaijani government has vehemently denied allegations of politically motivated arrests in the country.