Khadija Ismayilova Freed!

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision in Azerbaijan to release Azerbaijan’s leading investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova. It’s indeed happy news to those who know Ismayilova and her important work as a courageous journalist and civil society leader tirelessly exposing corruption in Azerbaijan, including activities involving the members of the president Aliyev’s family. Her reporting had caused her arrest in December 2014.

– Together with many international organizations and Azerbaijani activists we were campaigning tirelessly for the freedom for Khadija and many other imprisoned colleagues, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. -Releasing Khadija is an important step and wonderful news to us and to those who should not have been in prison in the first place. We are so happy for her and her family. But there is still a lot of work to do as many other colleagues of us remain behind bars.

The court converted her seven-and-a-half year prison sentence to a three-and-half year suspended term. As Ismayilova’s sentence has only been suspended, her freedom of movement remains curtailed, other restrictions have also been imposed on her liberty. NHC calls on the authorities to overturn the conviction against her and to allow her to resume her previous work without restrictions.

The government should also immediately and unconditionally release all the numerous other peaceful activists and human rights defenders who are still unjustly behind bars following politically motivated, unfair trials. For the past 3 years, the government has carried out unprecedented crackdown, jailing dozens of human rights defenders, opposition politicians, journalists and many other critics of the regime. Those activists that remain in prison include political analyst and leader of the opposition REAL Movement Ilgar Mammadov, whom the government continues to hold in defiance of the European Court of Human Rights decision on his case and the repeated calls by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers to free him; and prominent journalist Seymur Hazi, who was recently awarded by The Fritt Ord Foundation and the ZEIT-Stiftung Free Media Prizes for Independent Journalism in Eastern Europe; and youth activist Ilkin Rustamzadeh; opposition politicians Fuad GahramanliMammad IbrahimElvin Abdullayev, to mention just a few.

Azerbaijan’s international partners, including the Council of Europe, United States and the European Union, should use every means of influence at their disposal and reiterate their calls to Azerbaijan to address its human rights record, including by releasing all those who are in jail for peacefully exercising their fundamental human rights.

Tomorrow, on 27 May – NHC, together with Norwegian PEN, Human Rights House Foundation and Amnesty International Norway, marks Khadijas birthday on Egertorvet in Oslo from 11:30 – 12:30. We join 39 other cities around the world in the call for a full restoration of justice for Khadija and the release of all political prisoners in Azerbaijan.