Political prisoners in Azerbaijan honoured
The Sakharov Freedom Award 2014 ceremony was a tribute to the brave political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Relatives of the laureates received the award in an emotional ceremony at Hotel Bristol on 13 November.
- If modern European history teaches us one thing, it is the instability of authoritarian regimes. The history of the Sakharov Freedom Prize bears this out: Our first laureates, Charta 77, were not only freed from prison. They went on to shape the new democratic states that rose from the ruins of the communist dictatorship, said secretary general Bjørn Engesland in his welcoming speech.
State Secretary Bård Glad Pedersen from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs greeted the laureates on behalf of the Norwegian government. - The laureates, the ones we want to honour, are not here today. They are behind bars. That is a sad reflection of the situation in their country. For several years we have been concerned about the situation in Azerbaijan with regards to human rights. In the recent months we have seen a sharp deterioration in the state of affairs, and we together with the international community have expressed our sincere concern, Glad Pedersen said in his speech.
Former political prisoner and Andrei Sakharov Laureate of 2006, the famous Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski said in his greetings to this year's award winners that the Sakharov Freedom Award has a reputation of being a prize given to people showing exceptional courage. - It is extremely important that this award goes to the political prisoners in Azerbaijan, given the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, Bialiatski said in his speech. Bialiatski ended his speech by putting on a Free Intigam Aliyev t-shirt. -Intigam wore a t-shirt with my face on it when I was in prison, now it is my turn to wear his, Bialiatski stated to the audience.
In her speech, Berit Lindeman, Senior Advisor and Head of Information in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee quoted from a letter Leyla Yunus, imprisoned human rights defender has written to her husband Arif Yunus, who is also in prison. "The hardest part is that I can’t see you! After 36 years together we are in different cells and in different prisons." - We cannot imagine what they are going through. Their crime is that they wanted peace and democracy in Azerbaijan, Lindeman said in her speech, and urged everybody to see the faces of the political prisoners, learn their names and call for their release.
Chair of the Board of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Ragnhild Astrup Tschudi presented the award diplomas to the relatives of the laureates. On behalf of all the laureates Dinara Yunus (daughter of Leyla and Arif Yunus), Nermin Kamilsoy (daughter of Intigam Aliyev) and Sanan Jafarov (brother of Rasul Jafarov) received the diplomas.
- I would like to thank you all for giving my parents and all the political prisoners in Azerbaijan this support. I am sure that this award will warm their hearts, Dinara Yunus said in her speech.