Azerbaijani Journalist Detained on ‘Outrageous’ Charge — Editor



BAKU (Guardian) — Khadija Ismayilova, an Azerbaijani investigative journalist who contributes to Radio Free Europe (RFE), is under custody on a charge her chief editor calls “outrageous.”

She has been sentenced by a court in Baku to two months of pre-trial detention for allegedly inciting a man to attempt suicide. If found guilty, she could face three to seven years in prison.

RFE’s chief editor, Nenad Pejic, said it was yet another attempt in a two-year campaign to silence Ismayilova, who has investigated government corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan. “Khadija is being punished for her journalism,” Pejic said.

The charge was brought the day after Ramiz Mehdiyev, chief of staff to Azeri president Ilham Aliyev, issued a 60-page statement accusing Ismayilova of “defiance” and displaying a “destructive attitude toward well-known members of the Azerbaijani community,” which “pleases [her] patrons abroad.”

The statement added that the Azerbaijani service of RFE (aka Radio Liberty) is on a “disgusting path” and that its employees work “for a foreign secret service.”

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Pejic said Mekhdiyev’s statement was dangerous and reckless, and could be perceived as a threat against other RFE/RL employees.

Dunja Mijatovic, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s representative on media freedom, called Ismayilova’s arrest “nothing but orchestrated intimidation, which is a part of the ongoing campaign aimed at silencing her free and critical voice.”

In October, she was prevented from visiting the United States to testifying at a hearing on corruption and later that month also denied a visa to attend an international conference in Prague.

Ismayilova has reported extensively on the financial activities of family members of President Aliyev. She has been threatened with physical harm and arrest since 2012. In February, the official media accused her of spying for the US after she met with senate representatives in Baku.


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