The decision by an Azerbaijani court to release opposition politician Ilgar Mammadov after more than five years in prison has been welcomed by EU and US State Department.

Mammadov was the leader of the opposition Republican Alternative (REAL) party. He had been convicted to seven years in prison.

“The European Union has been following Mammadov’s case very closely together with the Council of Europe,” said a statement by Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Spokeswoman of the US State Department Heather Nauert said in a statement on August 15 that Mammadov’s “conviction and imprisonment for over five years raised serious concerns about the rule of law in Azerbaijan”.

As reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the State Department had called on the government of Azerbaijan to drop the charges against Mammadov, “in keeping with its international obligations and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights”.

It also urged Baku to release ‘all other individuals who have been imprisoned for exercising their fundamental freedoms”.

A court of appeals in the northern city of Saki ruled on August 13 that Mammadov’s remaining prison term must be suspended.

The court also ruled that Mammadov has a two-year probation period during which he will not be allowed to leave the country.

Mammadov, who was arrested in 2013 and charged with helping organise riots northwest of Baku, described the ruling as “not a complete victory” since he had demanded “a full acquittal”.