Prominent Human Rights Defender Khadija Ismayilova Arrested in Baku

The award winning investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was arrested in Baku on 5 December. She is sentenced to two months of pre-trial detention under the accusation of inciting a person to commit suicide. If convicted, Khadija Ismayilova is facing a prison sentence from three to seven years.

”We call on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Khadija Ismayilova and other journalists and free speech advocates. Ismayilova’s work as a journalist, where she has investigated government corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan, is the obvious cause for the arrest,” said Robert Hårdh, Executive Director, Civil Rights Defenders.

Prior to the arrest, Khadija Ismayilova has for a long period of time faced strong pressure from the authorities. On October 12 a travel ban was imposed on her. She was briefly detained on October 3 at Baku International Airport after a visit to Strasbourg with members of the Parliamentary Assembly of Europe (PACE). While on that trip Khadija Ismayilova received a court summons on charges of criminal libel, which are thought to emanate from a document that she posted on social media claiming how the Azerbaijani secret services used sex tapes to blackmail dissidents in an effort to coerce them into cooperating with the regime.

The arrest of Khadija Ismayilova follows upon an unprecedented crack-down against human rights defenders in Azerbaijan during which a big number of human rights defenders have been arrested and risk or have already been sentenced to lengthy prison sentences. The authorities use trumped up charges of for example corruption, tax evasion, or drugs possession to silence human rights defenders and prevent them from carrying out their human rights work.