By Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty
Khadija Ismayilova, a prominent investigative journalist who contributes to RFE/RL’sAzerbaijani Service, has been sentenced by a court in Baku to two months of pretrial detention on charges of causing a man to attempt suicide. RFE/RL Chief Editor Nenad Pejic ridiculed the charges, which come one day after Ramiz Mehdiyev, Chief of Staff to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, issued a 60-page statement accusing Ismayilova of “defiance” and displaying a “destructive attitude toward well-known members of the Azerbaijani community,” which “pleases [her] patrons abroad.” The statement adds that RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service is on a “disgusting path,” and its employees work “for a foreign secret service.”
“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,” Pejic said.
Pejic added that Mekhdiyev’s statements were dangerous and reckless, and could be perceived as a threat against other RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service employees.
The OSCE’s representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic,condemned Ismayilova’s arrest, saying, “The arrest of Ismailova is nothing but orchestrated intimidation, which is a part of the ongoing campaign aimed at silencing her free and critical voice.”
A travel ban imposed on Ismayilova by Azeri authorities in connection with opaque charges of defamation prevented her from testifying at the U.S. Congress in November at a hearing on corruption and from traveling to Prague in October to attend an international conference.
Ismayilova, who also works with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, has reported extensively on the financial activities offamily members of President Aliyev. Ismayilova has been targeted by the ruling party’s press and threatened with physical harm and arrest since 2012. In February, official media accused her of spying for the United States after she met with U.S. Senate staffers in Baku.