Azerbaijan : Extension of the provisional detention of Ms. Khadija Ismayilova

18/05/2015
Appel urgent
Radio Free Europe

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the extension of the provisional detention of award-winning investigative journalist and well-known independent reporter Ms. Khadija Ismayilova, in Azerbaijan.

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

AZE 005 / 0515 / OBS 038
Judicial harassment /
Arbitrary detention
Azerbaijan
May 18, 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Azerbaijan.

New information :

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the extension of the provisional detention of award-winning investigative journalist Ms. Khadija Ismayilova. Ms. Khadija Ismayilova is a well-known independent reporter in Azerbaijan. She received the Gerd Bucerius Free Press of Eastern Europe Award by Zeit-Stiftung on May 24, 2012, the Courage of Journalism Award by the Washington-based International Women’s Media Foundation on October 24, 2012, and the Global Shining Light Award on October 14, 2013. Since 2010, she has published a series of articles relating to corruptions cases involving President Ilham Aliyev and his family. Over the past years, Ms. Ismayilova also took part in several human rights conferences abroad.

According to the information received, on May 14, 2015, the Nasimi District Court of Baku extended the pre-trial detention of Ms. Khadija Ismayilova until August 24, 2015, based on the risk that she might try to influence witnesses in the case or flee the country if released.

The authorities arrested Ms. Ismayilova on December 5, 2014 on dubious charges of incitement to attempt a suicide and later, on February 13, 2015, charged her with “tax evasion”, “illegal entrepreneurship”, and “abuse of authority” (see background information).

The Observatory recalls that the extension of her pre-trial detention is in line with the ongoing crackdown against Azeri civil society, human rights defenders and journalists, aiming to silence them and their human rights work in the run-up to the European Games of Baku [1]. In particular, in the last months, the provisional detention of other human rights defenders has also been extended : Ms. Leyla Yunus [2] will remain in jail until July 28, 2015 and Mr. Arif Yunusov until August 5, 2015. Furthermore, recently other prominent human rights defenders have been sentenced with trumped up charges to several years of prison : Mr. Rasul Jafarov [3] to 6.5 years and Mr. Intigam Aliyev [4] to 7.5 years of jail.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern for the clear ongoing repression against human rights defenders and journalists in Azerbaijan and calls upon the Azeri authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders and journalists arbitrarily detained, and to drop all charges against them, since they only aim at sanctioning their human rights activities.

Background information :

On September 5, 2014, Ms. Ismayilova had been held for two hours at Baku airport as she was returning from an OSCE meeting organised in Tbilisi. On October 5, 2014, she was again retained at the airport for several hours after a trip to Strasbourg, where she had met with officials of the Council of Europe. In addition, on October 12, 2014 and November 18, 2014, she was banned twice from leaving the country.

On December 5, 2014, the head of the presidential administration, Mr. Ramiz Mekhtiev, made a speech in which he accused, amongst others, Ms. Ismayilova of propagating “heinous ideas towards Azerbaijan”.

On December 5, 2014, Ms. Ismayilova was summonsed for interrogation by the prosecutor’s office on dubious charges of “incitement to attempt a suicide” on the basis of Article 125 of the Criminal Code and then placed in provisional detention for two months. The charges relate to an investigation opened in late October, after her former boyfriend, Mr. Tural Mustafayev, accused her of driving him to commit suicide.

On January 27, 2015, the provisional detention of Ms. Ismayilova was extended for one month and 19 days. On February 13, 2015, new charges of “large-scale embezzlement” (Article 179.3.2), “illegal business” (Article 192.2.2), “tax evasion” (Article 213.1) and “abusing official powers” (Article 308.2) were brought against Ms. Khadija Ismayilova. On March 6, 2015, her provisional detention was again extended until May 24.

Ms. Ismayilova is also facing other charges since October 3, 2014 following a complaint lodged by a political activist, Mr. Elman Türkoglu, who accused her of defamation.

Action requested :

Please write to the authorities in Azerbaijan, urging them to :

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Khadija Ismayilova as well as all journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan ;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Khadija Ismayilova, as well as all the other arbitrarily detained journalists and human rights defenders, since their detentions are arbitrary and only aim at sanctioning their human rights activities ;

iii. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Ms. Khadija Ismayilova, and more generally against all journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan ;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially :
- Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;
- Article 5, which underscores the right of every individual to form, join, and participate in non-governmental organizations ; and
- Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights” ;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Azerbaijan.

Addresses :

· Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 19 Istiqlaliyyat St., Baku AZ1066, Azerbaijan, Fax : (+994) 12 492 06 25, (+994) 412 92 28 68, E-mail : office@pa.gov.az, office@apparat.gov.az
· Mr. Zakir Garalov, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Prosecutor’s Office, 7 Nigar Rafibeyli St., Baku, Azerbaijan, Fax : (+994) 12 492 06 82, (+994) 12 492 26 63, E-mail : z.qaralov@prosecutor.gov.az, info@prosecutor.gov.az
· Mr. Eldar Mahmudov, Minister of National Security, Ministry of National Security of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Parliament Avenue 14, Baku AZ1006,Azerbaijan, Fax : (+994) 12 493-76-22, E-mail : cpr@mns.gov.az
· Mr. Ramil Usubov, Minister of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Azerbaijani Republic, Fax : (+994) 12 492 45 90
· Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov,Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail : katiblik@mfa.gov.az
· Mr. Fikrat F. Mammadov, Minister of Justice in Azerbaijan, Inshaatchilar Prospekti, 1 Baku, Azerbaijan, e-mail : contact@justice.gov.az ; Fax (+994) 12 430 09 81
· H.E. Mr. Murad N. Najafbayli, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the United Nations in Geneva, Route des Fayards 237, CH-1290 Versoix, Switzerland, Fax : (+41) 22 901 18 44, E-mail : geneva@mission.mfa.gov.az
· Embassy of Azerbaijan in Brussels, Avenue Moliere 464, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Fax : (+32) 2 345 91 85

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Azerbaijan in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Azerbaijan.

***

Geneva-Paris, May 18, 2015

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

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