'Kite Runner' Author Calls for Release of Journalist Khadija Ismayilova

Novelist Khaled Hosseini has added his voice to the campaign for the release of Khadija Ismayilova, the award-winning investigative journaist imprisoned in Azerbaijan on bogus charges.

Khaled Hosseini

Describing freedom to write without fear as “sacred'', he added:“The Azerbaijani government's many attempts to silence Khadija and strip her of this freedom speak volumes about her courage and influence in the face of extreme oppression.''Joining a flood of activists, politicians and journalists who have condemned her prosecution, the Afghan-born American author of the “The Kite Runner'' – which was translated to Azeri by Ismayilova – has also lent his support to the campaign to free her. In a joint statement with the PEN American Center, an organizationthat promotes freedom of expression, he also described the wider attempts by Azerbaijan's president and his circle to silence investigative journalism in the oil-rich country.

Ismayilova has been held in pre-trial detention since Dec.5. In two different cases, she stands accused of driving a former colleague to attempt suicide and violating state secrecy laws, both criminal offenses under Azerbaijani law. If convicted, she could face up to seven years in prison. The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and OCCRP journalist had uncovered corruption in Azerbaijani government contracts as well as revealing the business links of those in elite political circles, including the daughters of President Ilham Aliyev.

Azerbaijan has the second highest number of imprisoned journalists per capita in the world. The imprisonment of Ismayilova has been denounced by Human Rights Watch, the US Helsinki Commission and members of the European Parliament, among other international organizations. Reporters Without Borders has launched a petition to release her. Their call for signatures directly addresses the Azerbaijani government: “Your actions will be judged in the arena of freedom of information and respect for basic rights.“

Amnesty International has named Ismayilova a prisoner of conscience.