Dismay as Investigative Journalist Khadiya Ismayilova is Sentenced to 7.5 Years in Prison

Civil Rights Defenders condemn the politically motivated sentencing of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadiya Ismayilova to 7.5 years in prison. Today, 1 September, Khadiya was convicted by the Baku Court of Grave Crimes on charges of embezzlement, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of office. She was acquitted on an earlier charge of inciting someone to commit suicide.

Khadija reported extensively on the financial dealings of President Ilham Aliyev and members of his family, and has been held in pre-trial detention since her arrest in December 2014.

“It is ironic that Khadiya has been sentenced to 7.5 years, partly for the same indictments she was investigating regarding the Aliyev regime. It is a tragic day for human rights in Azerbaijan as Khadiya’s sentencing represents a prime example of how the judiciary acts with impunity and no regard for international human rights obligations. EU-leaders and other decision makers should protest this sentence and treat the Azerbaijani regime as the dictatorship that it is,” said Robert Hårdh, Executive Director, Civil Rights Defenders.

On 31 August, Khadiya read her final statement out in court. Despite the Prosecutor cutting her short, in a composed and defiant manner she stated; “It is not a coincidence these charges were brought against me. After all, I have talked and written in detail about these very same crimes myself”.

Khadiya courageously showed her disdain for all the charges levied against her and in the case of the charge of tax evasion levied against her retorted; ”To accuse the person who investigated the presidential family’s stolen money stored in offshore accounts, their abuse of state deals and contracts with offshore companies and groups and of evading taxes was very funny”

Prosecutors had been seeking a sentence of 9 years against Khadiya.

”It is important that Sweden, the EU and the international community strongly speaks out against the systematic oppression of human rights defenders by the Azerbaijani regime who directly contribute to the silencing of the country’s civil society,” said Robert Hårdh.

In response Civil Rights Defenders and several other international human rights organisations who are members of the Sports For Rights Campaign signed a statement calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Khadiya Ismayilova and all human rights defenders who are currently in pre trial detention or serving sentences.