European Federation of Journalists

IFJ and EFJ reject the Prosecutor’s 9 years imprisonment request against Khadija Ismayilova

Update (01/09/2015): Khadija Ismayilova has been sentenced today by Baku Court to 7,5 years in prison.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European organisation, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), together with ARTICLE 19 and the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), have urged the Azerbaijani authorities to reject the Prosecutor’s request made today against the investigative journalist Khadija Ismaylova and to immediately free her.

Ismayilova’s trial began in capital Baku on 7th August and has been adjourned until Wednesday 26th August, when the verdict is likely to be delivered.

Following the request, the four media organisations have together submitted the statement below to the Council of Europe (CoE):

“Khadija Ismayilova’s hearing began in Baku on 7th August, and culminated in a request on 21st August by the State Prosecutor to sentence her to 9 years in prison. The judge has adjourned the case until 26th August, when a verdict is likely to be delivered. The State Prosecutor’s request to condemn Ismayilova to 9 years’ imprisonment is a gross violation of human rights, given the lack of due process in the case and the absence of any credible evidence presented by the prosecution. Ismayilova has accused the court of rushing through her trial and not giving her sufficient chance to respond to the charges. Only some representatives of foreign embassies were allowed to attend the trial; and no independent media or civil society were present. The IFJ, the EFJ, ARTICLE 19, and AEJ urge the Azerbaijan authorities to reject the Prosecutor’s request and immediately free Khadija Ismayilova.”

Arrested since 5 December 2014 on suspicion of inciting a colleague to attempt suicide (the man finally withdraw his complaints), Khadija Ismayilova has published numerous detailed investigations about corruption cases involving Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and his family. Prosecutors later added charges of libel, tax evasion, and illegal business activity.

On his part, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, said that the request was sad but expected news and that Khadija was the latest victim of a long list of human rights defenders and journalists who had been selectively targeted by bogus charges and criminal prosecutions moved against them by a political system intolerant of criticism.

The IFJ and EFJ had previously submitted the case to the Council of Europe (CoE)’s platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety for journalists and advocated for the release of the investigative journalist and other six colleagues of her that still remain behind bars in Azerbaijan, one of the countries that records most cases of media violations, according to the CoE.

(Picture credit: EFJ)