Azerbaijan: Supporters Protest Against Ismayilova’s Detention Outside Courtroom
Supporters of imprisoned investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova protested against Ismayilova’s detention as her trial continued today.
Asmall group of Ismayilova’s friends and colleagues called for her to be freed from custody immediately, releasing multi-colored balloons into the sky as part of a peaceful protest.
The trial will resume tomorrow.
Ismayilova, an investigative reporter for OCCRP and Azadliq Radio (the Azerbaijani branch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty [RFE/RL}), 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.
Addressing the court on Tuesday, Ismayilova reportedly said, “I do not consider anyone my enemy. Even (Azerbaijani President) Ilham Aliyev. In general I am very distant to notions of enemy and hatred. People who carry such emotions are weak.”
Ismayilova also expressed concern at Tuesday’s hearing over the speed of the trial, saying “I do not want to be indicted hastily,” RFE/RL reports.
She has previously suggested that the court is rushing towards a verdict through a brutal schedule of daily hearings.
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 her 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.