New York, August 21, 2015--A state prosecutor today called for Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova to be sentenced to nine years in prison, according to pro-government news agency Trend. The request was made during a hearing in the Baku Court of Serious Crimes that was closed to independent journalists and rights activists, the regional press reported. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the trial and calls on Azerbaijan to drop all charges against Ismayilova.
"Azerbaijani authorities must bring this mockery of justice to an end and release Khadija Ismayilova immediately and unconditionally," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "We call on Baku's counterparts in the international community to make any further dealings with Azerbaijan conditional on Ismayilova's release, as well as the release of all journalists locked up in this repressive state."
Ismayilova, who hosted a radio program on the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has repeatedly denied charges of illegal business, tax evasion, abuse of power, embezzlement, and incitement to suicide, according to reports. CPJ has determined the charges are in retaliation for Ismayilova's reporting on corruption in the Azerbaijani government. A verdict is expected to be announced at the next hearing, due to take place on August 26, RFE/RL reported.