The excellent Aug. 7 editorial “The kleptocracy strikes back” decried the imprisonment of Azerbaijani economist Gubad Ibadoghlu. This illegal action of the Baku regime angers me on two levels. First, his arrest deprived him of his human rights and caused physical harm to him and his wife. Second, this incident is part of a decades-long pattern of oppression against anyone who expresses their basic right to criticize the autocratic kleptocracy that rules Azerbaijan. Invent “crimes” (in this case, currency fraud) against political opponents; violently arrest the “criminal”; abuse and intimidate innocent family members; deny legal representation and contact; and detain the accused under horrible jail conditions, including torture.
Mr. Ibadoghlu is not alone. Turan.az reported in February that there were more than 90 political prisoners in Azerbaijan. All deserve to be released. Mr. Ibadoghlu’s situation demands immediate action because the authorities are depriving him of the medicines necessary to treat several serious medical conditions.
International media attention is important to highlight these intolerable abuses of human rights. U.S. Embassy and State Department statements calling for Mr. Ibadoghlu’s release have been ignored. His life is at stake. Now is the time for firm action. Now is the time to apply sanctions against Azerbaijani officials responsible for his illegal arrest and continued detention. We have done this in the case of Russian officials. Azerbaijan’s authorities act with impunity. The United States must take the lead in showing there are consequences for continued violations of human rights.
Richard D. Kauzlarich, Falls Church
The writer was U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan from 1994 to 1997.