Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the monstrous sentence sought by the prosecution in journalist Khadija Ismayilova preposterous trial’s in Azerbaijan, a nation that suffered one of the biggest falls of any country in RSF’s 2015 press freedom.
The judicial sham will soon be over. After a series of hearings in which the defendant’s rights were systematically flouted, a Baku prosecutor today requested a nine year sentence for Ismayilova.
“This is so obviously an absurd and outrageous political trial, a judicial sham that elevates this case into a symbol of the wave of persecution of independent media that began a year ago,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“We urge the international community to condemn this trial and to remind Azerbaijan of its obligations under the many international commitments it has given. Pressure must be put on this regime in order to obtain the unconditional release of Ismayilova and all the other journalists arbitrarily detained in Azerbaijan.”
Held partially behind closed doors, the trial has been conducted in a blatantly hostile manner with the clear aim of denying justice. In order to dispatch the case as quickly as possible, the judges accepted almost none of the defence lawyers’ requests, thereby preventing them from presenting evidence that would have demonstrated the absurdity of the charges.
The access of Ismayilova’s family and friends to the courtroom has been restricted on the grounds that there has been no space. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the courtroom was filled with people recruited for the occasion. The independent press has also been denied access.
Azerbaijan’s leading investigative journalist, Ismayilova is well known for her coverage of high-level government corruption, much of it involving members of the ruling Aliyev family.
After several attempts to pressure and intimidate her, including a blackmail attempt with a sex tape, the authorities finally arrested her on 5 December 2014 on the trumped-up charge of inciting a fellow journalist to attempt suicide.
After he retracted his statement incriminating Ismayilova, the authorities brought four new charges against her – large-scale embezzlement, illegal trading, tax evasion and abuse of authority in connection with the Baku bureau of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which Ismayilova once headed.
Azerbaijan is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.