New York, September 1, 2015–The Baku Court of Serious Crimes today convicted Khadija Ismayilova, one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent investigative reporters, of illegal business, tax evasion, abuse of power, and embezzlement, and sentenced her to seven and a half years in prison, according to local press reports. The court dropped the charge of incitement to suicide, the reports said. A state prosecutor had requested a nine-year sentence during a closed hearing. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the verdict and sentence and calls on Azerbaijan to scrap them on appeal.
“Khadija Ismayilova’s trial has been a farce, yet the consequences for her, and for all Azerbaijani journalists, are gravely serious,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We call on authorities to overturn this verdict on appeal and for Baku’s international partners to stop turning a blind eye to the country’s human rights abuses.”
Ismayilova, who hosted a radio program on the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has repeatedly denied all criminal charges against her. CPJ has determined the charges to be retaliation for Ismayilova’s reporting on corruption in the Azerbaijani government.
The international Sport for Rights coalition of press freedom and human rights organizations, which was formed in the lead up to the European Games in Baku and of which CPJ is part, issued this joint statement today condemning Ismayilova’s jail sentence.