Azerbaijan lifts travel ban on ailing activist couple

An elderly activist couple have been allowed to travel to the Netherlands for medical treatment.

Azerbaijan lifts travel ban on ailing activist couple

World Bulletin / News Desk

Azerbaijani rights activists Leyla and Arif Yunus travelled to the Netherlands Tuesday for medical treatment after authorities lifted a travel ban in place since they were released from prison last year. 

"On Monday, Azerbaijan's Supreme Court allowed my clients to go abroad for medical treatment," the ailing couple's lawyer, Elchin Sadykhov, told AFP.

 "They left Azerbaijan for Amsterdam on Tuesday morning," he added. 

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders welcomed the couple to the country "after a difficult time in Azerbaijan". 

"They are now in the Netherlands, along with their daughter, in order to find some rest after their fight for human rights," Koenders said in a statement. 

Leyla Yunus, 60, who heads the Institute for Peace and Democracy, and her husband Arif were handed long jail terms last year on fraud and tax evasion charges, but rights groups slammed their trials as politically motivated.

 After international outcry over their imprisonment the pair -- who were both suffering ill health -- were released from jail towards the end of last year but remained under a travel ban.

 The couple still face treason charges in a separate case.

 International rights groups have decried the prosecution of the couple as an attempt by Azerbaijan's authorities to prevent them from continuing their work.  

Leyla Yunus suffers from ailments including hepatitis C and diabetes, while her husband Arif has been diagnosed with a brain tumour and hypertension, according to their lawyer. 

Any form of dissent in the oil-producing South Caucasus nation of Azerbaijan is usually met with a tough government response. 

Strongman President Ilham Aliyev took over in 2003 after the death of his father Heydar Aliyev, a former KGB officer and Communist-era leader who had ruled newly independent Azerbaijan with an iron fist since 1993.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Nisan 2016, 09:47