The European Union on Tuesday welcomed the release of nine Azerbaijani political activists who were detained in April 2011 while taking part in a peaceful political rally, and praised the Central Asian nation for respecting civil and political rights of its citizens.
"I welcome with great satisfaction the release on June 22 of the remaining nine imprisoned participants of the peaceful rally held on April 2, 2011," EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement released by her office on Tuesday.
She described the release of the political activists as a "laudable step" taken by the Azerbaijani government in its efforts to restore civil as well as political rights in the country and to gradually move on the path of ensuring the freedoms of assembly and of speech.
"I hope that this decision will also encourage further actions to ensure full protection of fundamental rights and freedoms and to fulfill the country's international commitments with regards to democracy and the rule of law. The EU remains committed to assist Azerbaijan in this endeavor," she added.
Ashton's statement came days after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev pardoned 66 convicts, including nine youth activists who were arrested in April last year during a wave of anti-government protests inspired by the Arab Spring.
by RTT Staff Writer
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