BAKU — Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has issued pardons for hundreds of people, including almost 40 who have been identified by rights groups as being behind bars for political reasons.
In total, 625 individuals were pardoned on March 18, of which 38 have been recognized as political prisoners.
Among that group were four members of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, 28 imprisoned in the high-profile case of deadly clashes with police in the village of Nardaran in 2015, one person convicted over deadly clashes in the city of Ganca, one member of the Islamic party sentenced for protesting against the banning of hijabs at schools, and one person believed to have been sentenced for being a relative of a political activist living abroad.
According to the clemency decree, 475 inmates will be released from penitentiaries, while the prison terms of 98 convicts will be cut by half and three life terms will be shortened to 25 years.
Rights activists say there are some 150 political prisoners in Azerbaijan, while the oil-rich South Caucasus nation’s government has insisted that there are no such inmates in the country.