Azerbaijan: Prosecutor Seeks 9-Year Sentence for Ismayilova

The prosecutor in the case of investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova has asked the judge to sentence her to nine years in prison, Azadliq Radio reports. 

Khadija IsmayilovaIsmayilova, an investigative reporter for OCCRP and Azadliq Radio (the Azerbaijani branch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), is on trial in Baku’s Court of Grave Crimes for charges including embezzlement, tax evasion and inciting a former colleague to attempt suicide – charges human rights groups say are politically motivated.

Ismayilova’s mother, Elmira Ismayilova, said the journalist laughed when she heard the sentence request.

According to a source who was present in the courtroom, the court may sentence Ismayilova when court reconvenes Aug. 26, or wait until the following day. Three lawyers are expected to speak, then final statements will be given before sentencing.

Based on previous cases, it is possible the judge could reduce the requested nine-year sentence to seven or seven-and-a-half years.

Ismayilova’s mother told reporters outside court today that her daughter “has never done anything bad. She's always spoken the truth.”

Commenting on the prosecutor’s requested sentence, she said, “I was expecting 15, they have asked for 9. How kind of them.”

Before her arrest in December 2014, Ismayilova reported extensively on corruption in the upper echelons of the Azerbaijani government.

She believes her investigative work is the real reason behind her legal troubles, claiming at a hearing on July 24 that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev “imprisoned me to hinder my journalistic activity.”

OCCRP has continued her work exposing corruption in Aliyev’s regime through an investigative journalism series called The Khadija Project. Most recently, OCCRP journalists created an interactive tool to document the billions stolen in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan has a poor record on free speech. According to human rights organizations, there are at least 80 political prisoners in Azerbaijan.