Sticking to the script, appeal court upholds Ismayilova’s jail sentence
Although it was expected, Reporters Without Borders is appalled by a Baku appeal court’s "disgraceful” decision today to uphold well-known journalist Khadija Ismayilova’s seven-and-a-half-year jail sentence and calls on the international community to do everything possible to obtain her release.
The supreme court has still to examine the case but Ismayilova will now be transferred to a women’s prison to begin serving the sentence she received on 1 September on trumped-up charges of tax evasion, abuse of authority, embezzlement and illegal commercial activity.
"With a script written long ago by President Ilham Aliyev, this tragicomedy continues to play out in the Azerbaijani courts,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
"It was a political case from the outset so we call on Azerbaijan’s international partners to turn to the highest government level to demand Ismayilova’s release. Everyone in Azerbaijan knows that she is in prison because of her journalistic work and her human rights activism.”
Azerbaijan’s leading investigative reporter, Ismayilova covered corruption at the highest level. The authorities finally arrested her in December 2014 after their many attempts to intimidate her into silence failed.
After suppressing all media pluralism, the Aliyev government has been orchestrating an unprecedented crackdown on its remaining critics for the past two years.
Eleven other journalists and bloggers are currently detained in connection with their reporting. They include Rauf Mirkadyrov, whose trial began behind closed doors on 4 November, a year and a half after his arrest. The next hearing in his trial is scheduled for 2 December.
Azerbaijan is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
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