Azerbaijan: Court Prolongs Detention of Khadija Ismayilova

Officials in Baku today extended the pre-trial detention of investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova.

Khadija IsmayilovaIsmayilova has been held since Dec. 5, when she was charged with inciting former colleague Tural Mustafayev to suicide. She also stands accused of running an illegal business, embezzlement, abuse of power and tax evasion.

The allegations are believed by human rights organizations to be politically motivated. Ismayilova's journalistic work for Radio Free Europe-Free Liberty and OCCRP exposed the business connections of Azerbaijan'spresident Ilham Aliyev and his family.

Since her arrest, Ismayilova's detention has already been extended once, in a hearing on Jan. 27. Today's ruling, issued by the Nasimi District Court, means she can be held until May 24. No trial date has yet been set.

Under Azerbaijani law, a defendant can be detained pending trial up to a limit of 18 months. Once the trial begins, they can be detained indefinitely.

Fariz Namizli, Ismayilova's defence lawyer fora separate libel case, said he had not been told about today's hearing and was only informed of it when he went to meet her at the detention center and found she'd been taken to court.

"Her other lawyer, Fakhraddin Mehdiyev, was also informed about the hearing only an hour before it took place," said Namizli.