Azerbaijan must immediately release Khadija Ismayilova

New York, February 6, 2015–The Baku Appeals Court today upheld a lower court’s decision to extend the pretrial detention of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova to March 24, according to regional press reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for Ismayilova’s immediate release.

“The continued pretrial detention of Khadija Ismayilova underscores that authorities have no evidence that she committed any crime and are only trying to silence her,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We call on Azerbaijani officials to drop these fabricated charges and release Ismayilova immediately. They can then turn their attention to freeing the other seven journalists in prison because of their work.”

Ismayilova, an award-winning reporter and an anchor for the Azerbaijani service of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was arrested on December 5 on charges of inciting a local man to commit suicide, and a district court in Baku extended her detention for another two months on January 27, Reuters reported. According to RFE/RL, Ismayilova denies the accusations and says she is being held in retaliation for her journalistic investigations on corruption and human rights abuses. According to CPJ research, Azerbaijan is the worst jailer of journalists in Europe and Central Asia, with at least eight behind bars.