The United States regrets today’s court decision in Azerbaijan to imprison Azerbaijani youth leaders Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade. This court decision is a step backwards for Azerbaijan’s progress towards democratic reform. The non-transparent investigation, closed court hearings, disproportionate legal charges, and failure to detain and charge the assailants have raised concerns about the independence of the police and the judiciary as well as about restrictions on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. We hope the events of the past four months do not signal a trend in the further erosion of free speech rights in Azerbaijan, and we urge that the appeal process is conducted in a fair, timely, and transparent manner. We also hope that this ruling does not discourage Azerbaijan's civil society to continue its efforts to promote democratic reforms, which the people of Azerbaijan deserve.
The United States remains committed to working with the government and people of Azerbaijan to seek progress on democratic reforms, including on freedom of expression and association. An independent judiciary, free from political influence and a vibrant civil society are cornerstones of a modern democratic state.