New York, February 13, 2015–The Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office today charged Khadija Ismayilova, an award-winning investigative journalist, with embezzlement, illegal business, tax evasion, and abuse of power, regional and international press reported. The new charges came the same week that news reports said a leading press freedom advocate, Emin Huseynov, has been in hiding in the Swiss embassy in Baku to avoid arrest on similar accusations.
“Azerbaijani officials are not fooling anyone with their bogus charges–these are bald efforts to lock away journalists who investigate corruption and human rights abuses,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We call on Azerbaijani authorities to drop the charges against Khadija Ismayilova and release her immediately.”
Ismayilova, an investigative reporter and a program host for the Azerbaijani service of RFE/RL, has been in pretrial detention since December 5 on a separate charge of inciting a man to commit suicide, news reports said. If convicted, she could face up to 19 years in prison. She has denied all the charges, reports said. Azerbaijan is the leading jailer of journalists in Europe and Central Asia with at least seven other journalists in jail. The country is scheduled to host the first-ever European Games in June.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This statement has been corrected to reflect that Azerbaijan is scheduled to hold the European Games in June.