Azerbaijan: Khadija Ismayilova’s Term Shortened

An Azerbaijani court has reduced the suspended sentence of outspoken journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who was imprisoned in late 2015 for her reporting of corruption in the country’s ruling family. 


Xədicə Ismayılova 1 (Photo: Lisoynizami CC BY-SA 4.0)

Ismayilova, a journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), had her sentence reduced to two years and three months by the Baku Court for Serious Crimes on Monday, RFE/RL reported.

The court did not give a reason for its decision.

The Court for Serious Crimes in Baku sentenced Ismayilova in September last year to seven and a half years in prison on charges of misappropriation and abuse of power, illegally conducting business, and tax evasion.

Ismayilova successfully appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan and in May was aquitted of misappropriation and abuse of power, but remained convicted of illegal entrepreneurship and tax evasion.

The court also reduced Ismayilova’s sentence to three and a half years’ probation. She was released on May 25, two days before her 40th birthday. 

The legal pursuit of Ismayilova has been widely seen as payback for her reporting on corruption by the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

Following Ismayilova’s arrest, journalists from Europe, Turkey, the U.S, and the Caucasus including the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) formed the Khadija Project, a network of journalists committed to finishing the work Ismayilova began before her imprisonment.

The Khadija Project has, amongst other stories, revealed a billion dollar bribery scandal involving the Azerbaijani royal family and Nordic telecom giant TeliaSonera, as well as the family’s use of State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) funds to pay for luxury yachts for their own personal use.