Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has signed a traditional pre-holiday pardon of 625 people.
Signed on 18 March it released 475 people from the unserved part of their sentences, with 98 people seeing their sentences reduced by half.
According to local human rights defenders among the 625 people pardoned, 38 were considered political prisoners.
These included some convicted in the Ganja case, in which two senior police officers were killed in Azerbaijan’s second city of Ganja during an anti-government protest and the Nardaran case, in which members of the Muslim Unity Movement were arrested during a security operation in the Nardaran village of Baku.
The pardon order states that several people known as ‘Nardaran prisoners’ (at least 29) and ‘Ganja prisoners’ were released.
Local media also reported that three members of the opposition Popular Front Party and 1 journalist had been freed.
Human rights defender Anar Mammadli told Meydan TV that there were 90 people on their unified list of political prisoners. He said that two thirds of these remained in custody and that the amnesty did not solve the problem of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
Reporters Without Borders welcomed the pardoning of Elchin Ismail, a journalist known for his coverage of corruption and human rights who wrote for outlets including the Azaldig newspaper and RFE/RL . Ismail was sentenced to nine years in prison in September 2017 on charges of extortion.
‘[Reporters Without Borders] welcomes the news but calls for the release of the three other journalists imprisoned under false accusations’, the group stated in a tweet.