September 15, 2015: #SetThemFree Campaign Updates

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Azerbaijan: Injustice for human rights activists continues

On September 1, 2014, Khadija Ismayilova, one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent investigative reporters, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on politically motivated charges. Human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus were also convicted on August 13, with Leyla sentenced to eight and half years in jail, and Arif to seven. Both continue to endure extremely worrying health situations. A group of United Nations human rights experts recently condemnedtheir sentencing as “manifestly politically motivated and representative of the continuing repression of independent civil society in Azerbaijan.”
Belarus: Political prisoners pardonned
Former Belarusian presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich was pardoned by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and released on August 22 from prison, where he had been for five years following a crackdown on opposition protestors. He was released along with five other political prisoners, Mikalay Dedkov, Ihar Olinevich, Yauhen Vaskovich, Artsyom Prokopenko, and Yury Rubtsov. The release of the six prisoners comes just two months before the presidential election, due to be held on October 11.
Venezuela: Opposition leader handed harsh sentence
Opposition leader Leopoldo López was sentenced to 13 years and 9 months in prison-of a maximum possible of 14 years under Venezuela’s Criminal Code. López was arbitrarily detained on February 18, 2014 in Caracas, after leading massive peaceful demonstrations calling for President Nicolás Maduro to step down. The criminal proceedings against López were riddled with due process violations. The #SetThemFree campaign released a video message on International Day of Democracy 2015 to highlight the struggles of democracy activists and political prisoners like Leopoldo López around the world.