Washington D.C./15.09.23/Turan: The United States on Thursday urged the Azerbaijani government to immediately release Gubad Ibadoghlu, TURAN's Washington correspondent reports.
"I have said before that we are troubled by his arrest and detention, and we urge his immediate release," State Department's Spokesperson Matthew Miller told a daily press briefing when responding to TURAN's questions.
"I don’t think you should conclude that quiet diplomacy precludes that we’re asking for his release," Miller insisted.
Ibadoghlu, a respected economist who has advocated for democratic principles and socio-economic progress within Azerbaijan, was detained outside Baku on July 23 on charge of counterfeiting after police claimed they found forged bills worth $40,000 in his abandoned apartment, an accusation that he categorically disputes.
The State Department had earlier expressed its 'deep concern' about Ibadoghlu's medical condition amid reports that he is seriously ill, and urged Azerbaijan to protect his human rights and fundamental freedoms. Several U.S. lawmakers have also recently urged the Azerbaijani government to release Ibadoghlu on humanitarian grounds.
Miller's Thursday comments came just hours after a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Azerbaijan, where two key Senators - Ben Cardin and Tim Kaine picked up on Ibadoghlu's case and challenged a State Department official on this issue.
"I'm going to mention one specific case that was brought to my attention in Azerbaijan, and that is the activist who was imprisoned, Gubad Ibadoglu," Cardin said.
"I don't know if you're familiar with that case or not. But the United States doesn't stand by and let activists be imprisoned because of their speech, particularly with countries that we want to have a strategic relationship with, including a financial relationship with. We consider sanctions for those types of activities," the Senator added.
He asked the State Department's Acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Yuri Kim to "get back" to him on Ibadoglu's case.
In his turn, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine mentioned that Ibadoglu was a National Endowment for Democracy Fellow in 2015 and lived in New Jersey and Virginia, and most recently, in North Carolina. And he's tied with American universities, especially the University of North Carolina.
The Senator went on to add, "He is a prominent Azerbaijani scholar. And he's written about.... the fact that oil revenues often go hand-in-hand with corruption and poor governance. As a scholar, he's written about that. And because those writings are unpopular with the rulers of Azerbaijan, he and his wife were arrested in July with no due process. He remains imprisoned in very poor conditions, and he has numerous health issues. He celebrated his birthday on Tuesday.. What can you share about the department's interaction with the government of Azerbaijan regarding Dr. Ibadoglu?"
In her response, Assistant Secretary Kim told the Senators that the U.S. has raised this case, "and we will continue to do so."
She went on to add, "If and when the Senate confirms the next nominee to be our ambassador to Azerbaijan, I can assure you that this gentleman's case will be at the top of his agenda when it comes to pursuing these types of issues."
Senator Kaine concluded by saying that even before a confirmation, "I just hope that we raise it again and again and again. Because I think the unjust imprisonment of a NED fellow with ties to many of our states is something that needs to be top priority. And I would appreciate you taking that back."