Azerbaijan: Witnesses Testify at Ismayilova’s Trial

Two of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova’s former colleagues, Ulkar Guliyeva and Farid Abdullayev, gave testimony her trial today, according to Trend

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 colleagueto commit suicide – charges human rights groups say are politically motivated.

Speaking at the Baku court, Guliyeva said she had been working for Azadliq since 2005 and answered the public prosecutor’s questions.

As Abdullayev is currently abroad, the judge read out his written testimony in which he confirmed he also worked for Azadliq and said Ismayilova had a great reputation within the bureau.

Meanwhile, Radio Azadliq reported that Ismayilova today once again criticized the speed of the court proceedings, saying: “This is [an] express court. You leave no time for us to discuss the proceedings or let me see my family.”

On Tuesday the journalist had accused the court of rushing towards a verdict by insisting on a relentless schedule of daily hearings.

Many of Ismayilova’s family, supporters and independent media have been repeatedly barred from the hearings.

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 created an interactive tool to document the billions stolen in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan has a poor freedom-of-speech record.

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

The trial will resume tomorrow.