Azerbaijan: Award-winning journalist Khadija Ismayilova jailed as crackdown intensifies

Azerbaijan’s jailing of an award winning journalist barely two weeks after two prominent human rights activists received jail sentences is another severe attack on free speech, Amnesty International said today.

Investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova, who works for Radio Free Europe, was jailed at a closed session trial in Baku for seven-and-a-half years on trumped-up charges of tax evasion, embezzlement and illegal business. She was cleared of a charge of inciting a colleague to attempt suicide.

Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia said:

“This was yet another unfair trial relying on fabricated charges. The government has stepped up its brutal crackdown on political activists, journalists, human rights defenders - indeed anyone who dares to publicly raise a critical voice.

“By adopting draconian laws and aggressively applying them, the Azerbaijani authorities have effectively criminalised free speech and the freedom of association. They are simply abusing the criminal justice system to persecute dissenters.

“The government wants to spread fear amongst its critics and send out a message to civil society that it cannot turn to the law to ensure their rights are upheld.”

According to Ismayilova’s lawyer, the prosecution failed to provide documentary evidence substantiating any of the charges made against her.  Ismayilova’s parents and independent journalists were regularly prevented from attending trial hearings and only a handful of diplomats were present.

Two weeks ago, human rights activists Leyla Yunus – who called for a boycott of the European Games held in the capital Baku in June this year - was jailed for eight-and-a-half years on trumped up charges. Her husband Arif was jailed for seven years, also on fabricated charges.Azerbaijan’s jailing of an award winning journalist barely two weeks after two prominent human rights activists received jail sentences is another severe attack on free speech, Amnesty International said today.

Investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova, who works for Radio Free Europe, was jailed at a closed session trial in Baku for seven-and-a-half years on trumped-up charges of tax evasion, embezzlement and illegal business. She was cleared of a charge of inciting a colleague to attempt suicide.

Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia said:

“This was yet another unfair trial relying on fabricated charges. The government has stepped up its brutal crackdown on political activists, journalists, human rights defenders - indeed anyone who dares to publicly raise a critical voice.

“By adopting draconian laws and aggressively applying them, the Azerbaijani authorities have effectively criminalised free speech and the freedom of association. They are simply abusing the criminal justice system to persecute dissenters.

“The government wants to spread fear amongst its critics and send out a message to civil society that it cannot turn to the law to ensure their rights are upheld.”

According to Ismayilova’s lawyer, the prosecution failed to provide documentary evidence substantiating any of the charges made against her. Ismayilova’s parents and independent journalists were regularly prevented from attending trial hearings and only a handful of diplomats were present.

Two weeks ago, human rights activists Leyla Yunus – who called for a boycott of the European Games held in the capital Baku in June this year - was jailed for eight-and-a-half years on trumped up charges. Her husband Arif was jailed for seven years, also on fabricated charges.

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