Amnesty International blocked from visiting Azerbaijan before Baku 2015

Amnesty International has been blocked from entering Azerbaijan before the inaugural European Games, amid a clampdown on free speech designed to quell critics, reports.

The human rights organisation had been planning to launch a new report highlighting the crackdown on free speech, independent media and government critics. However, just as Amnesty officials prepared to travel, they received a message from the Azerbaijan Embassy in London on Tuesday afternoon stating it was “not in a position to welcome the Amnesty mission to Baku at the present time” and suggesting any visit should be postponed until after the games.

The decision to bar Amnesty came as Emma Hughes, a human rights campaigner with Platform who has previously been critical of BP’s role in cooperating with Azerbaijan, was stopped from entering the country. After arriving on Tuesday Hughes, who had been given press accreditation to cover the games, was told she was on a “red list” and held in the terminal before being put on a flight out of Baku.

The European Games, featuring 6,000 athletes begin on Friday in Baku’s new 68,000-capacity national stadium.