Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court has ordered the release of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova after an international campaign to free her and just two days before international protests against her detention were due to take place.
Khadija, who turns 40 on Friday, had previously been sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison on trumped-up financial charges in September 2015, having been detained since December 2014. The supreme court has just announced that her sentence has been reduced to a suspended three-year sentence. She will be subject to a travel ban and other restrictions.
“We are delighted that Khadija Ismayilova has been released from prison,” said Index’s senior advocacy officer Melody Patry. “She shouldn’t have spent a day in jail. The charges against her were spurious and we call for her full acquittal. We also reiterate our calls for Azerbaijan to release all political prisoners.”
Ismayilova was jailed in December 2014 on a range of politically motivated charges – initially inciting someone to attempt suicide, and later the charges of which she was eventually convicted: illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, and abuse of office. The real reason she was targeted, however, was her investigative reporting exposing corruption among Azerbaijan’s ruling elite.
Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (ECCA) International Media Support team leader Gulnara Akhundova said today: “We are beyond relieved that Khadija Ismayilova has finally been released, but emphasise that she should never have spent a single day in jail. We call for all restrictions on her to be immediately dropped and for her conviction to be overturned.”
Rebecca Vincent of Sports for Rights, which has been campaigning for Ismayilova’s release, said: “We are delighted that Khadija is finally free, after spending 537 days unjustly jailed. On the occasion of her release, we echo Khadija’s call that we should not focus only on her case, but call for the releases of all political prisoners and concrete steps to address the rampant corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan that Khadija has sacrificed so much to expose.”
Sport for Rights has organised a global action to mark Ismayilova’s 40th birthday on Friday 27 May in 40 cities around the world. Gatherings will still go ahead, and participants will celebrate Ismayilova’s release, call for her full acquittal and call for the release of the country’s dozens of remaining political prisoners.
Index on Censorship senior advocacy officer Melody Patry is available for comment at +44 (0)207 963 7290 / [email protected].
Sport for Rights coordinator Rebecca Vincent is available for comment at +44 (0)7583 137751 / [email protected].