BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — President Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan has approved an amnesty that will free 87 inmates in the ex-Soviet nation.
The amnesty, which Aliev signed Monday, will include some opposition activists and journalists, according to rights activist Novella Dzhafaroglu.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke welcomed the amnesty as a "step in the right direction" and urged Azerbaijan to "build on these pardons by releasing others incarcerated in connection with exercising their fundamental freedoms."
Rathke said Washington is worried about Azerbaijan's crackdown on civil society, adding that the closure of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty offices in Baku last week was "further cause for concern."
He said the station's property was seized and its employees were forcibly taken from their homes for questioning by local law enforcement on unspecified charges.