Azerbaijan: Ismayilova Claims Court Records Are ‘Falsified’ at Trial
Investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova claimed at a court hearing today that court records in her case are being “falsified”, Trend news agency reports.
Ismayilova, 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 commit suicide – charges human rights groups say are politically motivated.
The prosecutor at today’s hearing responded to Ismayilova’s allegation calling it “unreasonable”, arguing that the journalist was referring to protocols with which she was not familiar.
At a hearing last Friday she requested that independent media representatives be granted access to the courtroom to cover the trial independently.
Many of Ismayilova’s family, supporters and independent media have been repeatedly barred from the hearings.
Radio Azadliq reports Ismayilova’s mother and one other relative were able to enter the courtroom today, as well as representatives from German, United States, and Norwegian embassies.
However, representatives from the European Union and British embassy were barred.
Meanwhile, a Baku court has sentenced human rights activists Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus to eight-and-a-half and seven years imprisonment respectively on charges of tax evasion and other financial crimes, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.
Human Rights Watch has called the charges against them bogus, and the United Kingdom and United States governments have both issued official expressions of concern over the verdict.
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 August 18.