“We welcome Khadija Ismayil’s release from prison. This is great news. We are happy for her and her family, and for her friends and her colleagues. We now call for the full rehabilitation of her rights,” reacted Ane Tusvik Bonde, Regional Manager at Human Rights House Network.
Khadija has already served 1.5 years in prison, held on politically motivated charges for her work exposing corruption. She now faces 3.5 years on probation, and a two-year ban on professional activities.
HRHN trial monitors reported on events from the court today: “Khadija’s mother was there; she was very happy. When the court ordered Khadija Ismayil’s release, there were cheers and applause in the courtroom. Everyone was rejoicing. Everyone was there: Intigam Aliyev, human rights defenders, diplomats, media.”
In court, Ismayil’s lawyers – Fariz Namazli, Javad Javadov, and Vahradin Mehdiyev – argued that Ismayil had committed no crime and that she should have been released.
Monitors reported that Ismayil was not brought to the Supreme Court today, and that she will be released later this evening, once the court judgement is served to the prison administration.
Bonde continued: “We call on the Azerbaijani authorities to fully restore Kadija Ismayil’s rights and her ability to work. She should never have been in prison. More than this, the Azerbaijani authorities must end the crackdown on journalists and human rights defenders, and create conditions for independent media and civil society to operate in the country.”
“This release is not a sign of an improving climate in the country for independent journalists. The authorities must take steps to ensure that critical press is free, and investigative journalism is not punished, as elements to truly improve the space for freedom of expression in Azerbaijan,” concluded Bonde.
Khadija Ismayil’s release comes two days ahead of planned global events calling for her release and marking her second birthday in prison, and amid mounting pressure from a global campaign raising awareness of the politically motivated case against her.
The planned events will still go ahead on 27 May 2016. They will now celebrate Khadija’s release and call for her full acquittal, demand the release of the remaining political prisoners, and call for real improvements in the human rights situation and the conditions for civil society in Azerbaijan.
Emin Milli, Director of Meydan TV, on Khadija Ismayil and the crackdown on independant journalism in Azerbaijan
“I am happy that she [Khadija Ismayil] is released; she is our friend; she is the best investigative journalist in Azerbaijan. We have missed her, and I think with her struggle she has proved that it’s possible to stay a journalist, to defend your human dignity, and to put up the fight for freedom in any situation, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem. And just by that she has inspired a lot of people in Azerbaijan, also a lot of young people, to join the struggle, as journalists, as activists, as politicians. And I think she has turned into a symbol of struggle for freedom in Azerbaijan, but also more and more into a symbol for freedom around the world.” Emin Milli, Director of Meydan TV, reacting to Khadija Ismayil’s release.
Khadija Ismayil is an award-winning investigative journalist. She was arrested in January 2014 and sentenced to 7.5 years in prison, as part of an ongoing unprecedented attack on independent media in Azerbaijan.
- Sport for Rights Press Release: Khadija Ismayil Released
Sport for Rights is a coalition of international organisations working together to draw attention to the unprecedented human rights crackdown taking place in Azerbaijan.
The Sport for Rights campaign was launched by Azerbaijani human rights defender Rasul Jafarov, who was later arrested and served 18 months in prison on politically motivated charges until his recent release by presidential pardon. A group of international organisations united under the coalition to carry on Rasul’s work, call for his release and the release of all of the jailed journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, and draw attention to the alarming human rights situation in the country.
Sport for Rights originally focused on the crackdown taking place in the run-up to the inaugural European Games, which was held in June 2015 in Baku. Now, the coalition continues to raise human rights concerns in the run-up to the Formula One European Grand Prix, which will take place in Baku in June 2016.