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AEJ Statement on the arrest of leading Azerbaijan journalist Khadija Ismailova

The AEJ expresses outrage at the arrest of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova, who was sentenced to two month pre-trial detention on Friday.

Khadija Ismailova, a broadcaster with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani Service, was detained on charges of inciting a person to commit suicide, which could carry a prison sentence of up to seven years if she is convicted. She has also been charged in a separate case for posting a document on social media accusing the Azerbaijani secret services of blackmailing an opposition activist.

One day before her sentencing in the latter case, Azerbaijan’s Presidential Chief of Staff Ramiz Mehdiyev  has accused Ms Ismailova of treason. He also accused employees of RFE/RL of spying.

Khadija Ismailova’s arrest is the latest and most chilling attempt by the Azerbaijani authorities to silence her through intimidation and harassment. In 2012 an intimate video, secretly recorded in her bedroom, was released to the official media, and a coordinated smear campaign was mounted against her. In October this year she was prevented from traveling abroad to attend an international conference in Prague. On November 19 she was prevented from testifying at a US Congress hearing on “Combatting Corruption in the OSCE region”. No legal or official explanation was given for her travel ban.

As one of the most outspoken critics of persistent human rights violations in Azerbaijan, Khadija Ismailova has investigated and reported extensively on the forceful repression of civil society organisations and on the business interests of leading political figures in the country.

The AEJ utterly condemns this blatant attempt to silence one of the last remaining free and critical voices in Azerbaijan, and calls on the government to release her immediately and unconditionally.