PACE urged to act against lawmakers tied to bribery

Two weeks after an investigation found strong evidence that members of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly had accepted bribes in return for silencing discussion of human rights violations in Azerbaijan, European governments are demanding sanctions against the lawmakers, The New York Times reports.

In a letter sent on Friday to Michele Nicoletti, the assembly’s president, Anders Samuelsen, the Danish foreign minister and chairman of the council’s Committee of Ministers, described the corruption case as “deeply worrying” and called for the assembly to act “promptly and strongly.”

The lawmakers — including Pedro Agramunt, a former president of the assembly and a senator in Spain’s conservative governing party — have been accused of accepting money, jewelry, prostitutes and paid hotel stays in oil-rich Azerbaijan.

According to The New York Times, on his letter Mr. Samuelsen questioned if the council’s parliamentary assembly was dragging its feet on punishing the officials named in the report.

“There is reason for concern if there are continued efforts on behalf of a small number of parliamentarians to divert or dilute the follow-up of the report,” Mr. Samuelsen wrote. He warned that if the assembly failed to act promptly, European ministers would instead “consider appropriate steps.”

The scandal is threatening to become one of the biggest credibility tests of the European institution; concerns over how Azerbaijan was using its membership have been rife for years.

Last year, after receiving complaints that lawmakers had helped silence criticism of the country’s record on human rights and the rule of law, the assembly ordered an investigation into its members’ activities in Azerbaijan.

Three former European judges led the 10-month inquiry, and their findings, released two weeks ago, highlighted cases of conflicts of interest and corruption involving about a dozen former and current lawmakers. The investigation concluded that the officials had benefited from helping Azerbaijan dodge criticism from the European assembly in its reports on countries and some of its votes.

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