Rights groups criticize Azerbaijan ahead of European Games

GENEVA (AP) — With the opening of the inaugural European Games in Baku 100 days away, human rights groups have called on host nation Azerbaijan to release political prisoners held on “trumped up” charges.

Amnesty International released a report citing “the mounting persecution of government critics, detained under false charges.”

Human Rights Watch criticized “bogus criminal charges, including narcotics and weapons possession, tax evasion, hooliganism, incitement, and even treason.”

The European Games run June 12-28, and are widely seen as trying to soften the authoritarian image of Azerbaijan under President Ilham Aliyev.

Human Rights Watch urged European political leaders to “convey to Baku that they will not send high-level delegations to the opening ceremony.”

More than 6,000 athletes from across Europe will be competing in 20 sports.