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COPENHAGEN, 18 December 2013 – Leading OSCE Parliamentarians today expressed concern over the arrest and detention of Anar Mammadli, the chair of Azerbaijan's Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDSC).

Isabel Santos (Portugal), the chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on Democracy, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Questions, said: "I am deeply disturbed by the arrest and detention of Mr. Mammadli. I cannot help but worry that this arrest may fit into a pattern on the part of the Azerbaijani government of using legal measures to silence criticism and dissent."

"As an OSCE Participating State, Azerbaijan has a responsibility to ensure not only that Mr. Mammadli is treated in accordance with the rule of law, but that his organization and other civic groups are protected by the authorities -- not intimidated by them," Santos added.

Gordana Comic (Serbia), the Committee's rapporteur, said: "We urge authorities to immediately release Mr. Mammadli and act in a way that will assure all of us that they understand the basic principles of the OSCE. The arrest of yet another civic activist in Azerbaijan is unacceptable for us. We demand clear answers about the facts in this case."

Mammadli was arrested in Baku earlier this week on suspicion of illegal business activity and other charges. He has been ordered to spend three months in pre-trial detention.

The EMDSC is an established citizen election-observation group that has documented flaws in recent votes in Azerbaijan. It has faced multiple legal challenges concerning its registration and has reported frequent harassment by authorities in recent years.

Mammadli was a key speaker at briefings for the OSCE PA's observation delegation this October ahead of Azerbaijan's presidential election.

The OSCE PA's post-election statement is available here.