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Azerbaijan just released its most famous political prisoner

AP Photo/Aziz Karimov
Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova was arrested in 2014 for investigating allegations of corruption against the president’s family.
  • Jake Flanagin
By Jake Flanagin


Published This article is more than 2 years old.

On May 25, the Supreme Court of Baku ordered the release of prominent Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova from prison. She will be on three and a half years of probation, according to reports.

Ismayilova is a reporter for Radio Azadliq (the Azerbaijani arm of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) who gained notoriety at home and worldwide for her allegations of corruption against Azerbaijan’s dynastic presidential family, the Aliyevs, as well as systemic human-rights abuses committed by members of the government.

In Dec. 2014, Ismayilova was arrested on orders from an Azerbaijani court. “She puts on anti-Azerbaijani shows, makes absurd statements, openly demonstrates a destructive attitude towards well-known members of the Azerbaijani community, and spreads insulting lies,” wrote Ramiz Mehdiyev, chief of staff to president Ilham Aliyev, in a press released published on the occasion of her arrest.

In Sep. 2015, she was convicted of a number of financial crimes, which some believe to be contrived by her critics in government. Her initial sentence was seven and a half years.

The Supreme Court was reportedly inspired to shorten and suspend Ismayilova’s sentence after her appeal.

“Greetings! I am out of prison,“ Ismayilova posted on Facebook shortly after her release. “Thank you all for your support. I am strong and full of energy. I will continue my work as a journalist.”

Human-rights organizations warn the fight is far from over, however. “Khadija Ismayilova must be fully acquitted if she is ever to obtain justice for her wrongful imprisonment,” says Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia. “Numerous other prisoners of conscience are still in jail for exercising their right to freedom of expression in Azerbaijan and must also be freed to break this dangerous pattern of fear and repression.”

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