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U.S. Criticizes Azerbaijan Crackdown

Azerbaijan -- A demonstrator joins a rally protesting the crackdown against civil society in Azerbaijan. 09Nov2014

At yesterday's daily briefing, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki issued this statement in response to a question raised about the detention of RFE/RL reporter Turkhan Karimov in Baku on November 28:

"We are deeply concerned by recent restrictions on civil society activities in Azerbaijan. We are increasingly concerned that the government of Azerbaijan is not living up to its international human rights commitments and obligations. We urge the government to respect the universal rights of its citizens and allow them to freely express their views. They will be best able to ensure their future stability and prosperity by allowing a more open society."

Karimov was pulled into a black SUV by police in plain clothes in front of his apartment last Friday. He was taken to a police station for questioning about his professional activities with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service, and warned "not to be critical of the government." He was released unharmed.

The incident comes amidst a wide-ranging crackdown against civil society in Azerbaijan that has resulted in the arrest of tens of independent journalists, human rights defenders, and government critics on charges that are widely believed to have been brought in retaliation for their work.