Human Rights House Foundation


Image: Khadija Ismayilova spent her 39th birthday in prison in Azerbaijan

Khadija Ismayilova spent her 39th birthday in prison in Azerbaijan

Since 5 December 2014, the Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova is in prison. She spent her 39th birthday in a prison on 27 May 2015. We repeat our call for her immediate and unconditional release.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015, by Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)

In the midst of an unprecedented repression against civil society in Azerbaijan, Khadija Ismayilova is one of the leading journalists of Azerbaijan behind bars. She has specialised in investigating corruption of State officials and is also a host of the Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty radio show in Azerbaijani. Today, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project published a first “Khadija Project” story, which is to be followed by others, aiming at “continuing her work in defiance of her ongoing incarceration.”

Khadija Ismayilova has also worked on compiling a list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, which was finalised in August 2014 after the arrest of Leyla Yunus and Rasul Jafarov, who are the main authors of the list.

In response to this work,
 she has been defamed in the pro-government press for long 
and even been subjected to blackmail. Ahead of her arrest, Khadija 
Ismayilova was detained for four hours in October
 2014 after returning to Baku from Strasbourg, where 
she had spoken publicly about ongoing rights abuses
 in Azerbaijan. A travel ban followed shortly afterward and she was prevented from travelling to the United States to speak before the Helsinki Commission in November.

On 5 December 2014, authorities arrested Ms. Ismayilova and bizarrely accused her of inciting the attempted suicide of a friend and former colleague. The day before the arrest of Ms. Ismayilova, the Head of the Presidential Administration, Ramiz Mehdiyev, issued a 60-page document that accused employees of RFE/RL of treason and specifically singled out Ms. Ismayilov as the “best example,” claiming that she “puts on anti-Azerbaijani shows, makes absurd statements, openly demonstrates a destructive attitude towards well-known members of the Azerbaijani community, and spreads insulting lies.” “This is treason,” the high-raking author concluded.

In April 2015, her accuser dropped the charges of inciting suicide. However, Azerbaijani authorities had already brought new charges of illegal business activity, tax evasion, abuse of office, and embezzlement on 13 February 2015.

Her ongoing pre-trial detention is based on those new charges and the proceedings in that case have not yet begun.

At the time of Khadija Ismayilova’s arrest, HRHF’s Executive Director, Maria Dahle, said that “this sentence does not come as a surprise: we assumed the authorities wanted to silence Khadija Ismayilova.” She added: “The arrest has a chilling effect: one must now consider that every independent civil society leader in Azerbaijan is a target and can be arrested at any given time for any charge, as ludicrous as one can imagine. The international community, especially the Council of Europe, must now get a foot in the door to stop the repression, including by stopping further cooperation with Azerbaijan's authorities.”

Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)

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