Azerbaijan: Jailed Journalist Rebukes President, Calls Charges Insulting

Jailed journalist Khadija Ismayilova has released to the media her defiant closing statement in a closed trial last week, in which she calls the Azerbaijan regime “criminal” and the charges against her “insulting.”

Ismayilova, who pressed unsuccessfully for the Feb. 23 trial at Baku’s Kurdukhani prison to be open to the public, described her experience with Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev’s “repression machine” and told the judge: “You have no evidence against me.” Her family and journalists were barred from the proceedings.

The Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty journalist was detained in Baku in December on a series of charges including criminal libel, inciting a former colleague to attempt suicide, embezzlement, tax evasion, abuse of power, and running an illegal business. Her detention has sparked international protestations from human rights groups, which believe the charges are politically motivated.

She has denied all charges. At last week’s closed trial, she was convicted in the criminal libel case and fined US$ 2,382.

Speaking to the judge and prosecutors, Ismayilova said: “I know that I am innocent, and no matter how hard you try to isolate me from the community, they too know I am innocent.”

She added that Azerbaijan “has become a safe haven for liars, fake witnesses, and dishonest prosecutors and judges,” and that “the stability of the criminal regime will devalue together with (the) manat.” On Feb. 21, the Azerbaijani government devalued its currency by about a third against the US dollar.

It is not always easy for Ismayilova to communicate with the outside world. In this case the speech was passed to the media through Ismayilova’s lawyer, Elton Guliyev. But Fariz Namazli, another lawyer on the case, told OCCRP that although Ismayilova is legally allowed to send letters from the detention center, they have frequently been confiscated by staff.

“There has never been any kind of explanation in regards to the legal grounds for this,” said Namizli.

The Washington Post published a letter on Feb. 18 that reached it through intermediaries.

See the full text of Ismayilova’s speech here.