WASHINGTON – An Azeri court on January 27 extended the pre-trial detention of independent journalist and RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova for an additional two months, in a decision that ignores international condemnation of her imprisonment.
“We are devastated by this decision, which lacks any factual basis and violates the basic requirements of due process,” said Nenad Pejic, RFE/RL editor in chief and co-CEO. “The extension of her sentence can only be interpreted as an act of revenge by Azeri authorities against the country’s leading investigative reporter.”
Ismayilova, who has reported extensively on the financial activities of family members of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, was arrested and jailed for two months on December 5 on charges of inciting a former colleague to attempt suicide.
Her detention has been widely condemned as part of a systematic, state-led campaign to intimidate and imprison the country’s independent activists and journalists. It has bolstered calls in Washington, D.C. to apply Magnitsky-like sanctions to Azeri officials, and discourage high-level diplomatic representation at the first European Olympics in Baku in June, an event intended by Azerbaijan’s leaders to burnish the country’s image.
RFE/RL’s Baku bureau was raided and sealed shut on December 26 by agents of the state’s “grave crimes investigations committee” in connection with a new law on so-called “foreign agents.” The same law was invoked to force the National Democratic Institute, IREX, and other organizations supporting civil society development to suspend their local operations.
RFE/RL sent a letter to Azeri authorities earlier this week requesting that the Baku bureau be reopened and employees resume their work without fear for their security and safety.