Update – Aug 20, 2015
According to Radio Free Europe Radio Library, the trial of Khadija Ismayilova was closed on August 20 in Baku. Azerbaijan prosecutors asked the court for an extra day to present their sentencing request. The trial started on July 24, and journalists and independent observers were not allowed to enter the courtroom.
Update – Aug 18, 2015
According to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, Khadija Ismayilova stated in court that “I do not consider anyone my enemy. Even [President] Ilham Aliyev. In general, I am very distant to notions of enemy and hatred. People who carry such emotions are weak.” Rights groups say the charges brought against Ismayilova are politically motivated retribution for her investigative reporting on the business activities of the country’s ruling elite.
Update – May 15, 2015
Azerbaijan has extended the detention of Khadija Ismayilova ahead of the start of the European Games next month. “Stay strong,” Ismayilova told journalists in court , after an appeal against her pre-trial detention was indefinitely dismissed. “I expect good investigative journalism from you. I am strong. Do not worry about me.”
Update – May 6, 2015
Khadija Ismayilova was awarded the prestigious media freedom award from the PEN American Center on May 5. The award conferred on Ismayilova is designed to recognize “an imprisoned writer of conscience in particularly dire circumstances.” Emin Milli, an Azerbaijani writer who himself was jailed in 2009 for his critical views of the government, accepted the award on her behalf, urging journalists and activists to “spread the word about her courage and struggle for freedom all over the world.”
Update – March 11, 2015
In a letter written in prison, Khadija Ismayilova writes that the American authorities’ boycott of Russia is leading to the Azeri authorities’ eagerness to offer oil and gas. This brings more money to both the Azerbaijani budget currently afflicted by declining oil prices and the coffers of the corrupt Aliyev regime, Ismayilova said. She also said that the charge she is currently facing – illegal entrepreneurship – is “ridiculous.”
Update – March 6, 2015
RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service reports that the Baku City Nasimi District Court has extended Khadija Ismayilova’s pre-trial detention until May 24, another two months, during an unscheduled, closed-door trial. According to the Azerbaijani state prosecutor’s office, the extension is caused by an investigation related to charges recently brought against RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service of operating as an illegal entity since 2008, a claim RFE/RL editor in chief Nenad Pejic says “has no basis in reality.”
Update – February 24, 2015
RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service reports that Khadija Ismayilova was found guilty of criminal libel in a closed-door trial today. The hearing was called on short notice and addressed allegations of criminal libel that were not among the initial charges from December 2014. Neither members of the press nor Ismayilova’s family were permitted to attend the court hearing.
February 13, 2015 – The IWMF is gravely concerned about the ongoing detention of investigative journalist and 2012 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winner Khadija Ismayilova, and is calling on the authorities of Azerbaijan to release her immediately. According to an RFE/RL report today, new charges have been brought against reporter Khadija Ismayilova. Her lawyer told RFE/RL that she rejects the new charges.
Ismayilova was originally arrested on December 5, 2014, on charges of ‘inciting a man to commit suicide’, following a 60-page statement issued the previous day by Ramiz Mehdiyev, Chief of Staff to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, accusing Ismayilova of “defance” and displaying a “destructive attitude toward well-known members of the Azerbaijani community” which “pleases [her] patrons abroad.”
On January 27, an Azeri court extended the initial pre-trial detention of Khadija Ismayilova for an additional two months, RFE/RL reports.
Ismayilova works for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. Her investigations into the business interests of the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev have repeatedly made her a target of harassment, including questionable legal proceedings and blackmail.
This meritless charge, the latest in a continuing series of attacks against Ismayilova, comes amidst a separate case in which she has been accused of ‘criminal libel’ and the ‘release of state secrets’. As a result, Ismayilova was denied the opportunity to testify before the U.S. Congress at a hearing on “Combating Corruption in the OSCE Region” last month because of a travel ban imposed by Azerbaijani authorities.
Ismayilova’s Facebook page, which she has used as a platform to share updates on ongoing harassment and intimidation against her and other journalists, was deactivated this morning for reasons unknown.
“The IWMF has no doubt that the charges brought against Khadija Ismayilova are a concerted attempt to silence her and stop her from investigating corruption, malfeasance in the country’s government, and the unethical business dealings of Azerbaijani President’s family”, said Elisa Lees Muñoz, Executive Director of the IWMF. “We call on the authorities of Azerbaijan to respect the principles of press freedom, and immediately release Ismayilova from prison.”
In 2012, Ismayilova was the target of a blackmail campaign orchestrated to humiliate her and force her resignation from RFE/RL and abort her investigative work. For her refusal to submit to the will of those seeking to silence her, she was awarded the IWMF Courage in Journalism Award, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year in honoring women journalists who set themselves apart by their extraordinary bravery.
“With the consolidation of power and money, crime and government, accompanied with disabled justice systems, independent journalists become the main target, as they become the only means of resistance for society against corruption and organized crime.” Ismayilova told the audience in her acceptance speech in New York in October 2012. “Those who attack journalists in my part of the world enjoy impunity.”
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, eight journalists are currently in prison in Azerbaijan. Dozens more have been intimidated, threatened, and harassed by authorities in an ongoing effort to silence the independent press.