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2021, 22 İyun, çərşənbə axşamı, Bakı vaxtı 12:44

Khadija Ismayilova, Investigative Journalist, Arrested

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Khadija İsmayilova arrested in Baku

On December 6, Khadija Ismayilova's Baku apartment was searched by the prosecutor general office employees. Ismayilova's mother, brother and lawyer Elton Guliyev were present during the search.

The judge of the Sabail district court of Baku ordered arrest of Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist with RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service based on the charges brought by the prosecutor office. She is sentenced to two months of pre-trial detention according to Article 125 of the Criminal Code (inciting to suicide). If convicted, Ismayilova is facing prison sentence from three to seven years.

Azerbaijan. Baku. Journalist Khadija İsmayilova entering the court building in Baku
Azerbaijan. Baku. Journalist Khadija İsmayilova entering the court building in Baku

Her lawyer Elton Guliyev called the charges "absurd" adding "even Khadija herself said the charges were the result of her journalist work".

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic condemned Khadija's arrest. "The arrest of Ismayilova is nothing but an orchestrated intimidation, which is part the ongoing campaign aimed at silencing her free and critical voice" said Mijatovic.

Several international human rights and press freedom watchdogs have condemned Ismayilova's arrest. Amnsesty Internationall called it "a blatant bid to gag free media". Melody Party, Senior Advocacy Officer at Index on Censorship said the arrest "confirms the pattern of intimidation and harassmnet perpetrated by authorities in an attempt to silence critical voices".

In a statement issued by The International Women's Media foundation, who awarded Khadija in 2012 wth Courage in Journalism said there is "no doubt the arrest and charges brought against Khadija Ismayilova are a concerted attempt to silence her and stop her from investigating corruption, malfeasance in the country's government, and the unethical business dealings of Azerbaijani President's family".

Ismayilova was first taken to the Prosecutor’s office where she was presented with the prosecutor’s request calling for her arrest. She was then taken to the Sabail District Court. Ismayilova was called in with regard to the case of Tural Mustafayev who accuses Ismayilova of driving him to attempted suicide. In a press statement, Mustafayev said he drank rat poison.

Khadija Ismayilova is known for her investigative work in Azerbaijan exposing President Aliyev’s family businesses. She is also radio host and investigative reporter with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

Head of Azerbaijan Presidential Apparatus Ramiz Mehdiyev
Head of Azerbaijan Presidential Apparatus Ramiz Mehdiyev

This development comes one day after, the Presidential Chief of Staff Ramiz Mehdiyev accusing Khadija Ismayilova of treason and calling Azadliq Radio employees spies. In his 60-page statement titled “A world order of double standards and modern Azerbaijan” [AZ] Mehdiyev writes, “Their [opposition] main concern is lip service to their bosses abroad and keeping good relations with them. The best example is Azadliq Radio’s journalist Khadija Ismayil. Together with her colleague “friends” she puts on anti-Azerbaijani shows, makes absurd statements, openly demonstrates destructive attitude towards well-known members of Azerbaijani community, and spreads insulting lies. It is clear this sort of defiance pleases Ms. Ismayilova’s patrons abroad” wrote Mehdiyev.

“Overall there is an understanding within the society, that Radio Azadliq and its employees are on a disgusting path. There is no need to prove that provision of false information is the same as working for the foreign secret service. This is treason. This is what journalists and people with healthy mindset think. If the symbol of democracy is Khadija Ismayilova, then it is awful to imagine what future awaits the society” concludes Mehdiyev.

In a statement, RFE/RL's Editor In Chief Nenad Pejic condemned the arrest of journalist. "The arrest and detention of Khadija Ismayilova is the latest attempt in a two-year campaign to silence a journalist who has investigated government corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan.The charges brought against her today are outrageous. Khadija is being punished for her journalism."

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) expressed its deep concern over Ismayilova's arrest and called on the government of Azerbaijan, the member state of the Council of Europe to respect the standards of ECHR.

Khadija was named one of the Brave Thinkers of the world by the Atlantic magazine. In 2012, she received the Gerd Bucerius Free Press of Eastern Europe Award and the Courage of journalism Award by U.S.-based International Women’s Media Foundation. She is also the recipient of Global Shining Award for her work in exposing “questionable business dealings” involving the ruling family.