Azerbaijan: No Visit for Jailed Ismayilova, Journalists and Activists Told

Published: 08 March 2016

Khadija Ismayilova


Authorities turned away activists and journalists attempting to visit imprisoned OCCRP partner Khadija Ismayilova on Monday, according to Voice of America (VoA).

 Ismayilova’s supporters negotiated for more than an hour to at least be able to pass her flowers on the eve of International Women’s Day today. Authorities refused, citing prison visitation hours and procedures, VoA said.

This refusal shows “how much the government fears Khadija… we will not allow her name to be forgotten,” Aynur Imranova, a journalist, told VoA.

Ismayilova was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison last September. Many believe the charges were in retaliation for her reporting on corruption linked to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s family members, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Rights groups have called Ismayilova’s trial a sham, RFE/RL said.

Ismayilova’s case has drawn international criticism. Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, wrote in January that her case is “emblematic of the reprisals that journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders face in Azerbaijan.” American Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) urged Aliyev in a Jan. 28 letter to “release Ismayilova, as well as other journalists imprisoned on dubious charges,” RFE/RL reported.

Amal Clooney, a prominent human rights lawyer, has agreed to represent Ismayilova at the European Court of Human Rights. The legal team plans to challenge Ismayilova’s detention as a violation of the European Convention, RFE/RL said. Clooney’s past clients include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and former Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko.

Ismayilova was one of nine female journalists recognized this year on International Women’s Day by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Women face “distinct threats” although they make up only a small number of imprisoned or killed journalists worldwide, CPJ said. The threats and blackmail attempts made against Ismayilova when she refused to stop reporting are an example of how “sexualized violence and traditional gender roles,” can make female journalists more vulnerable, CPJ said.