Journalist’s long jail term designed to intimidate

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the sentence of seven and a half years in prison that a Baku court passed today on leading investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova after convicting her on almost all the charges brought against her.Release Khadija IsmayilovaPetition

“Khadija Ismayilova’s long jail sentence is unfortunately no surprise because the Azerbaijani judicial system’s function seems to be to provide state repression with a veneer of legality,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“But this arbitrary verdict and sentence is no less appalling for that. Ismayilova’s only crime was to investigate high-level government corruption with courage and persistence. This trial sends a very powerful intimidatory message to all her fellow journalists in Azerbaijan.”

Ismayilova was not even allowed to finish reading her final statement during the penultimate hearing yesterday. Most independent journalists and observers were kept at a distance throughout the long trial.

Arrested on 5 December 2014, Ismayilova has already spent nine months in provisional detention on fluctuating trumped-up charges.

In the end she was convicted on almost all of the charges except the particularly absurd charge that she had incited a fellow journalist to attempt suicide.

After crushing all media pluralism, the Azerbaijani authorities have been orchestrating an unprecedented crackdown on independent journalists since last year.

Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Ismayilova and the 11 other journalists and bloggers held in Azerbaijan in connection with their reporting, and urges Baku’s international partners to raise her case in all bilateral talks.

Azerbaijan is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Read Khadija Ismayilova’s final statement in full.

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Updated on 24.05.2016