Azeri President Ilham Aliyev today pardoned nine opposition activists imprisoned for attending anti-government protests last year that were inspired by Arab Spring revolutions.
The pardon decree, published on the presidential website, came weeks after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the Azeri capital of Baku and called for the release of all imprisoned opposition members.
Baxtiyar Haciyev, a Harvard-educated youth activist who was also jailed last year after using Facebook to call for anti- government protests, was released two days before Clinton’s visit on June 6.
Opposition parties and groups in energy-rich Azerbaijan staged rallies in Baku in March and April 2011 in an effort to replicate popular uprisings that drove out authoritarian leaders in Tunisia and Egypt. While the rallies didn’t threaten President Aliyev, police detained hundreds of protesters. About 16 of them were later imprisoned for disrupting public order and damaging private property.
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