Azerbaijan Fails to Investigate Harassment of OCCRP Reporter
By Valerie Hopkins
Azerbaijani journalist and OCCRP Regional Coordinator
“The evidence shows that the government agencies were involved in the crime and prosecutor’s office fails to act as an independent investigative body,” said Ismayilova.
Results of an investigation she conducted with her lawyer and other journalists revealed that illegal monitoring of the journalist began just days after she published an story about the Azerbaijani President’s family’s businesses.
On March 7, Ismayilova received an envelope with pictures of a personal nature and a note saying, “whore, behave, or you will be defamed.” A week after Ismayilova went public about the threats and asked the Prosecutor General to open an investigation, the pictures were published in newspapers connected to the ruling political party and a private video of her was published on a website registered to a United States IP address.
The investigation was opened only two days later, on March 16. Ismayilova demanded that the government open an investigation on charges of harassment of a journalist and invasion of privacy, but the prosecutor’s office is only investigating the latter.
With the help of a team of journalists and lawyers, Ismayilova conducted her own filmed investigation and found numerous wires in the walls and ceilings of her bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. The wires found are used for telephone communications, web cameras, audio equipment, and electricity. New paint had been added to cover up where the spy cameras had been placed.
The day after the initial search, Ismayilova said in the news conference, she returned to the apartment with a group of journalists and found that her home had been broken into again since their last inspection. Lights left on and gloves were left in the kitchen that were not left by Ismayilova or anyone she knew.
Ismayilova said that on March 19, she showed the results of her investigation to the Prosecutor’s Office but they refused to comment on it, and refused to invite a telecommunications expert to examine the wires, Ismayilova said.
Ismayilova said her written requests for a detailed technical examination by the Ministry of Communications, Baku Telefon Communication Unit or the state-owned Automated Telephone Station (ATS) were refused. Finally the investigator Nail Aliyev, a relative of the security ministry chief, agreed to let a service man from the ATS examine the connections.
The service man told investigators that last summer he received orders from the ATS to connect a land line phone cable to the apartment. He said he had been met by a middle aged man and was not allowed to enter the apartment, where he heard sounds of construction. Ismayilova said this occured while she was out of the country, just days after she published a story implicating the first family in the ownership of the countries monopoly mobile phone carrier.
In the news conference Ismayilova said that the investigator did not include the serviceman’s testimony in their report and refused to investigate who ordered the additional phone line to be installed in Ismayilova’s apartment.
Ismayilova is a reporter for Radio Free Europe and hosts a popular radio show. She is also the regional coordinator for the Caucasus for OCCRP.