Clinton Urges Azerbaijan to Respect Human Rights

Posted June 6th, 2012 at 3:25 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pressed Azerbaijan to show greater respect for human rights.

During a visit Wednesday to the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, Clinton urged the government to let citizens express their views peacefully and to release those who have been detained for doing so. She also called on Azerbaijani authorities to respect journalists' rights.

Clinton met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and opposition activists, including Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who was released from prison on Monday after being convicted more than a year ago of draft evasion.

Hajiyev was arrested after his name appeared on the Facebook social media website as among those urging people to join anti-government protests.

Opposition and human rights groups in Azerbaijan have long accused President Aliyev of suppressing democracy and free speech.

In Baku, Clinton also voiced concern about the flare-up of deadly violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan, saying it could lead to a broader conflict.

At least eight soldiers have been killed in border clashes between the two countries since Monday.

Clinton stopped in Armenia on Monday at the start of her visit to the South Caucasus. She is now in Turkey.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a six year war over the mostly Armenian-speaking enclave of Nargorno-Karabakh, which is located inside Azerbaijan. Before the end of the war in 1994, some 30,000 people were killed and more than a million others were displaced, mostly in Azerbaijan. Armenia has occupied the territory since the war ended.