Azerbaijan: Khadija Ismayilova Didn’t Do It, Says Original Accuser at Trial

Published: 10 August 2015

Khadija Ismayilova in court.

By Beth Lacy

At the latest court hearing in the case of imprisoned journalist Khadija Ismayilova, her original accuser once again said Ismayilova did not commit the offense for which she is now on trial, Radio Azadliq reports. 

Ismayilova, an investigative reporter for OCCRP and Azadliq Radio (the Azerbaijani branch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), is on trial for inciting former colleague Tural Mustafayev to commit suicide – a charge human rights groups say is politically motivated.

Mustafayev has already publicly withdrawn the allegations he made in an initial complaint in late 2014, but the court has pursued the charges regardless.

Mustafayev said today in court that in fact, he had wanted to commit suicide because his fiancé broke off their engagement.

At one of Ismayilova’s previous hearings Mustafayev told reporters he had been forced to accuse Ismayilova, saying, “I'll tell the court the names of everyone who blackmailed me. I'll reveal everything.”

He was supposed to testify at Ismayilova’s hearing last Friday but did not turn up, prompting her to ask whether something had happened to him, Azadliq reported.

Friday’s trial hearing saw heated scenes as journalists who had been barred from the courtroom were later attacked by people emerging from the building.

Independent journalists were reportedly once again refused entry to the hearing today.

The hearings of human rights activists Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus also took place today. Both are accused of treason, among other offenses.

Human Rights Watch says the charges against them are bogus.

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

She believes her 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 Ismayilova’s work exposing corruption in Aliyev’s regime through an investigative journalism series called the Khadija Project.

Most recently, OCCRP reporters documented the President’s daughter’s ownership of an opulent vacation home in an exclusive Moscow suburb.

Azerbaijan has a poor freedom-of-speech record.

According to human rights organizations, there are at least 80 political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

Colleagues said Ismayilova looked in good spirits in the courtroom today. The trial will resume tomorrow.