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The Case of Khadija Ismayilova

Closed Mixed Outcome

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    May 25, 2016
  • Outcome
    Suspended Sentence
  • Region & Country
    Azerbaijan, Europe and Central Asia
  • Judicial Body
    Supreme (court of final appeal)
  • Type of Law
    Administrative Law, Civil Law
  • Themes
    Political Expression
  • Tags
    Imprisonment, Trumped Up Charges

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Azerbaijani Supreme Court freed from jail the investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova by converting the seven and a half year prison term she had been serving since September 2015 into a three and a half year suspended term. Ismayilova had been convicted for running an illegal business, tax evasion, abuse of power and embezzlement, charges that were considered to be retaliatory for her reporting on corruption in the Azerbaijani government.

Columbia Global Freedom of Expression could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.


Facts

Khadija Ismayilova is an internationally recognized independent reporter and investigative journalist who hosted a radio program on the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty or Azadliq (“Radio Freedom”). [2], [3]  

On December 5, 2014 Ismayilova was arrested on charges of “inciting” her ex-partner “to commit suicide”. This accusation was later withdrawn but in February 2015, Ismayilova was further charged with embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion and abuse of office. No evidence of these accusations was presented and it was largely considered that the charges were brought as retaliation for her reporting on corruption involving senior Azerbaijani government officials. [1], [2]

On September 1, 2015, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes convicted Ismayilova of conducting illegal business, tax evasion, abuse of power and embezzlement, and sentenced her to seven and a half years in prison. She was also barred from holding public office for three years and was fined $300 to cover legal expenses.  Two months later the Baku Court rejected an appeal she had filed. [2], [4]

[1] Committee to Protect Journalists, Azerbaijani reporter Khadija Ismayilova ordered released on suspended sentence (May 25, 2016), https://cpj.org/2016/05/-azerbaijani-reporter-khadija-ismayilova-ordered-r.php. 

[2] World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Azerbaijan: Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova free at last! (May 25, 2016), http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/azerbaijan/2016/05/d23779/

[3]Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ condemns 7.5-year prison term for Khadija Ismayilova (Nov. 1, 2o15), https://cpj.org/2015/09/cpj-condemns-75-year-prison-term-for-khadija-ismay.php

[4] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Azerbaijani Service, Baku Court Jails Journalist Ismayilova For 7 1/2 Years, Sentence Condemned, (Sep. 1, 2015), http://www.rferl.org/content/azerbaijan-khadija-ismayilova-verdict/27220240.html


Decision Overview

The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan decided to release Ms. Khadija Ismayilova by amending her sentence to 3.5 years suspended. She still faces a two-year ban on professional activities. [1], [2]

[1] Committee to Protect Journalists, Azerbaijani reporter Khadija Ismayilova ordered released on suspended sentence (May 25, 2016), https://cpj.org/2016/05/-azerbaijani-reporter-khadija-ismayilova-ordered-r.php. 

[2] World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Azerbaijan: Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova free at last! (May 25, 2016), http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/azerbaijan/2016/05/d23779/


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Mixed Outcome

Although the Supreme Court has released Khadija from prison, it still upheld a ban on her professional activities and amended her imprisonment sentence of 7 years to a 3.5 years suspended one.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

The judgment does not strictly speaking set a precedent but might be influential in relation to the cases of other journalists and democracy activists in Azerbaijan who have been imprisoned on the basis of very similar charges.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:


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