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Index on Censorship calls for all Khadija Ismayilova’s convictions to be quashed following the reduction in her jail sentence to a three-and-a-half-year suspended term.
Ismayilova, an award-winning journalist, was imprisoned since December 2014 and sentenced in September 2015 to seven-and-a-half years in prison on trumped-up charges.
“Khadija is a courageous journalist who speaks truth to power despite relentless harassment and pressure,” said Index on Censorship’s senior advocacy officer Melody Patry. She added: “Her imprisonment was unjust and the Supreme Court should have gone further and overturned the conviction rather than merely reducing the sentence.”
Officially charged with large-scale misappropriation and embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion and abuse of official duties, the real reason for Ismayilova’s imprisonment is her investigative journalism and advocacy.
Although Ismayilova is out of jail, her conviction still stands and carries many restrictions on her freedoms. She will have to report herself to the police every month and won’t be able to leave the country for five years without a permission from state institutions, Azadliq Radiosu reports.
“The struggle is not over for Khadija Ismayilova, and it is certainly not over for the remaining political prisoners in Azerbaijan,” Index’s CEO Jodie Ginsberg said. “Substantial change and reform are needed so that the authorities cannot jail and free their critics as they please.”
Index on Censorship will take part in the Sport for Rights global action to mark Ismayilova’s 40th birthday on Friday 27 May. Gatherings across the globe will go ahead, and participants will celebrate Ismayilova’s release and call for the release of the country’s dozens of remaining political prisoners.
Azerbaijan: Journalist Khadija Ismayilova released from prison