Azerbaijan: Prosecutor Accuses Ismayilova of Attempting to Delay Trial

The state prosecutor in the case of investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova today accused her of deliberately delaying the trial, Trend news agency 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 former colleague Tural Mustafayev to attempt suicide – charges human rights groups say are politically motivated.

In court today Ismayilova made several petitions to the judge, all of which the state prosecutor called unfounded and “aimed at delaying the trial”.

Among Ismayilova’s petitions was a request for testimony from the psychiatrist who treated her original accuser, Mustafayev. She also petitioned for extra witnesses to be called and for the inclusion of additional documents in the case material.

The judge refused all requests but granted Ismayilova time to meet with her lawyers. Ismayilova’s mother and sister today told Azadliq Radio she was granted only a few hours between hearings today to speak with her defense team, although she had requested an additional week.

Ismayilova’s mother, Elmira Ismayilova, told reporters today, "The prosecutor is lying. Khadija confirms that he is lying and while she is trying to defend herself, the prosecutor is not listening, no one is listening."

The journalist’s mother, as well as some international observers, were allowed into the courtroom today.

As in past hearings, some journalists were barred.          

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 Ismayilova’s 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.

The trial continues tomorrow.