Baku believes recent meetings with US officials — in particular, visits by Special Energy Envoy Amos Hochstein — signal that Washington is willing to drop the criticism of Azerbaijan’s civil right record and focus on the hydrocarbons that bind the two countries together, Giorgi Lomsadze writes for Eurasianet.org.

Lomsadze points out that Azerbaijan’s main pro-government news service APA trumpeted an anonymous essay, published a few days earlier by the legislature’s newspaper Azerbaijan, that had proclaimed that The Washington Post is allegedly “violating a ceasefire” between the US and Azerbaijan.

The Post, apparently seen in Baku as one of the US government’s “main mouthpieces,” came along and slammed the trial of prominent Azerbaijani human rights defender Leyla Yunus and her husband, conflict analyst Arif Yunus, as a “travesty of justice.” Then the newspaper Azerbaijan, which is, indeed, an official mouthpiece, claimed it could not make head or tail of the criticism, the author writes.

“With the Azerbaijani government indeed using lapdog media to spell out its views to local and international audiences alike, op-eds like this show what a shaky grasp the country’s elite has of the workings of independent media. Washington, in the meantime, may not even have been aware that it was perceived to be on a war footing with Baku, let alone progressing toward rapprochement,” Lomsadze stresses. “The Post should expect to receive a diplomatic note soon from Azerbaijan’s pro-government media.”

On 13 August 2015, Baku Court of Grave Crimes brought in a verdict against the Azerbaijani human rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus, sentencing them to 8.5 years and 7 years’ imprisonment respectively. On 6 August 2015, during Leyla and Arif Yunus trial in Baku Court of Grave Crimes, prosecutor Farid Nagiyev called on the court to sentence Leyla Yunus to 11 years’ imprisonment and her husband 9 years finding guilty of swindle, tax evasion and abuses.

In 2014, Francois Hollande, the French President, met Leyla Yunus in Baku and awarded her with the Order of the Legion of Honor. Later, on 30 July, Yunus was arrested in the yard of her house. She was charged with high treason, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, forgery and large-scale fraud. In January, media reported that the German doctor Christian Vitt confirmed that the arrested human rights defender suffered from a serious disease. However, in February 2015, Azerbaijani Nasimi District Court extended Leyla Yunus’ pretrial detention for five months. He husband, Arif Yunusov, also faces charges of high treason and large-scale fraud.

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