Azerbaijan: Investigative journalist’s pre-trial detention extended

28 January 2015 – RAN 02/15

PEN is deeply concerned by the continued pre-trial detention of the Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Ismayilova was arrested on 5 December 2014 and placed in pre-  trial detention for two months on suspicion of inciting another journalist’s attempted suicide. Her detention order had been due to expire on the 5 February 2015, but on 27 January 2015, the Sabayil District Court in Baku ruled that Ismayilova’s pre-trial detention would be extended for a further two months. PEN believes that the charge against Ismayilova is a politically-motivated response to her work exposing corruption at the highest levels of Azerbaijani society. PEN is calling for her immediate and unconditional release, for the charge against her to be dropped, and for the end to the two-year-long campaign of intimidation that has been directed at her.

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Please send appeals to the Azerbaijani authorities:

  • Expressing concern at the continued pre-trial detention of investigative journalist, Khajida Ismayilova which PEN believes is politically-motivated;
  • Call on the Azerbaijani authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally and to drop the charge of inciting an attempted suicide;
  • Call on Azerbaijan to comply with its obligations under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Azerbaijan is a state party) to protect the right to freedom of expression and cease its campaign of intimidation directed at opposition or critical voices.

Write to:

President Ilham Aliyev
Istiglaliyyat Street 19
1066 Baku
Republic of Azerbaijan
Fax +994124923543
Email: office [at] [dot] az
Salutation: Your ExcellencyProsecutor General
Zakir Qaralov
Office of the Prosecutor General
7 Rafibeyli Street
Baku AZ1001, Azerbaijan
Email: info [at] [dot] az
Salutation: Dear Prosecutor General

Please copy your letters to the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in your country.  Addresses may be found here.

Note to PEN Centres: Please keep us informed of any action you take in regard to Khadija Ismayilova’s case.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 28 February 2015. ***

Please inform us of any action you take, and of any responses you receive


Khadija Ismayilova is an investigative journalist, a radio host for Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, and is well known – both within Azerbaijan and internationally – for her exposures of high level corruption and for her criticism of the Azeri government’s crackdown on opposition voices. Because of her work, she has been the target of a relentless campaign of intimidation and judicial harassment over the last two years.

On 4 December 2014, Ismayilova was charged under Article 125 of the Penal Code with provoking the alleged suicide attempt of a fellow opposition journalist. She is also currently being sued for libel by a former member of the Popular Front party who accuses her of having defamed him in an article in which she exposed his work in subverting opposition organisations.

Previously, in February 2014, Ismayilova was called several times as a witness in an investigation into the leaking of state secrets, in which she was accused of handing files on Azeri opposition politicians to the US intelligence services; in October 2014 she was detained for several hours by the authorities at Baku airport on her way home from a meeting with Council of Europe officials in Strasbourg; in April 2013, videos secretly recorded in the journalist’s apartment were posted online; in March 2012, following her investigation into  President Aliyev’s family’s alleged interests in lucrative construction projects in Baku ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest, she received anonymous threats and warnings to stop her investigation: when she refused, an explicit video (allegedly depicting her) was posted online.

PEN’s work and Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is seeing an unprecedented crackdown on civil society. The challenges faced by opposition voices or critical journalists are severe and frequent, and include death threats, surveillance, judicial harassment and violence. The Writers in Prison Committee Case List for 2014 lists 26 cases of Azeri journalists and writers imprisoned or otherwise harassed.

PEN International raised its free expression concerns relating to Azerbaijan in our joint submission to the United Nations’ 16th Universal Periodic Review session in 2013. During Azerbaijan’s session, PEN collaborated with Article 19 to host a side event entitled ‘Azerbaijan: the individual cost of freedom of expression,’ in which Khadija Ismayilova participated. PEN has also contributed to a number of joint public appeals calling on the Azeri authorities to end the campaign of intimidation and judicial harassment directed at Ismayilova. Khadija Ismayilova features in PEN’s annual Case List, which may be found here.

To read more on our concerns about Azerbaijan, please see the Resolution on Azerbaijan adopted at PEN International’s 80th World Congress, which took place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in 2014.