AZERBAIJAN / Detained August 5, 2014 – November 12, 2015
UPDATE: Arif Yunus and wife Leyla Yunus were allowed to travel to the Netherlands on April 19, 2016 to receive medical care for their deteriorating health and to be reunited with their daughter.
Arif Yunus is an Azeri scholar and independent activist, and also husband of Leyla Yunus. She is the founding director of the Peace and Democracy Institute and a vocal critic of Azerbaijan’s human rights record, prior to her arrest she had been working on a project documenting political prisoners in the country.
Arif Yunus was arrested due to his work defending the rights of victims of torture and political prisoners, as well as his work towards finding peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He has been charged with treason and fraud.
After a year of detention, Arif’s first preliminary hearing was held on July 15th in anticipation of his July 27th trial. The judge refused his petitions to sit beside his lawyer and for all charges against him to be dropped. Both his lawyer and his wife, Leyla, highlighted his deteriorating health and the possibly cancerous tumor growing in his head that have received no medical attention during his detention.
On November 12, 2015 The Baku Court of Appeals granted Yunus’s release. Before leaving the courthouse, he was required to sign a document that bars him from leaving Baku. The request for Arif Yunus’s release was based on results of a medical examination conducted by German physicians that said his extremely high blood pressure could cause a heart attack.