The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on 9 August welcomed recent decisions by Azerbaijani courts to clear the criminal records of seven opposition leaders sentenced on charges of fomenting public unrest nearly two years ago in Baku. The unprecedented move in principle allows them to run in the November parliamentary polls. But dozens of other oppositionists cannot run because of similar convictions that have not been overturned.
All seven men can now – at least in theory -- take part in the upcoming polls.
But Azerbaijan’s rights campaigners say many more opposition figures remain barred from the November election because, although most have been released from jail, their sentences have not been quashed.
These opposition figures break into two groups. The first are former political prisoners, who -- like former Interior Minister Iskander Hamidov -- were sentenced under late President Heidar Aliyev in the mid-1990s. Although Ilham Aliyev has pardoned most of them, none can run for parliament because their convictions remain in force.
The second group comprises the 135 opposition activists convicted for their alleged role in the 2003 unrest.
Based in London, we are an informal group dedicated to supporting democracy and human rights throughout
the former Soviet Union. Our aims are:
Informing the public about issues in this area that receive little coverage in the Western media.
Staging peaceful demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns in support of specific causes.
Supporting and publicising nonviolent pro-democracy groups throughout the region.
Encouraging European and American involvement.
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Members of these groups have joined our blog to share their views and experiences.