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December 6, 2014

RFE/RL reporter detained in Baku

Khadija Ismayilova sent to two-month pretrial detention

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2014 — Khadija Ismayilova, a prominent investigative journalist who contributes to RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, has been sentenced by a court in Baku to two months of pretrial detention, on charges of causing a man to attempt suicide, broadcaster RFE/RL said in a press release. The broadcaster is based in Prague and Washington.

RFE/RL Chief Editor Nenad Pejic ridiculed the new set of charges, which come one day after Azeri Presidential Chief of Staff Ramiz Mehdiyev, Chief of Staff to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, issued a 60-page statement accusing Ismayilova of “defiance” and displaying a “destructive attitude toward well-known members of the Azerbaijani community” which “pleases [her] patrons abroad.” The statement adds that RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service is on a “disgusting path,” and its employees work “for a foreign secret service.”

“The arrest and detention of Khadija Ismayilova is the latest attempt in a two-year campaign to silence a journalist who has investigated government corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan. The charges brought against her today are outrageous. Khadija is being punished for her journalism,” Pejic said.

Pejic added that Mekhdiyev’s statements were dangerous and reckless, and could be perceived as a threat against other RFE/RL Azerbaijan I Service employees.

The OSCE’s representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, condemned Ismayilova’s arrest, saying, “The arrest of Ismailova is nothing but orchestrated intimidation, which is a part of the ongoing campaign aimed at silencing her free and critical voice.”

Ismayilova has been under a travel ban imposed by Azeri authorities in connection with opaque charges of defamation that prevented her from testifying at the U.S. Congress in November at a hearing on corruption.

Ismayilova, who also works with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, has reported extensively on the financial activities of family members of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev. Ismayilova has been targeted by the ruling party’s press and threatened with physical harm and arrest since 2012. In February, official media accused her of spying for the United States after she met with U.S. Senate staffers in Baku.

RFE/RL is a private, independent international news organization whose programs —radio, Internet, television, and mobile — reach influential audiences in 21 countries, including Russia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus, according to its press release. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

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