Appeals Court upholds verdict against Khadija Ismayilova

November 30th, 2015

Appeals Court upholds verdict against Khadija Ismayilova

 

Summary: Last hearing (November 25)

 

  • At the hearing, defense counsel Fariz Namazli submitted a motion requesting that Khadija Ismayilova sit next to her lawyers;

  • At the hearing, defense lawyers made speeches in which they asked for Ismayilova’s acquittal;

  • Khadija Ismayilova made a speech explicitly linking her arrest to her work as a journalist;

  • The public prosecutor asked the court to uphold the judgment of the first instance court;

  • The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of Baku Grave Crimes Court.

 

On November 25, the Baku Court of Appeal, chaired by the judge Ilgar Murguzov, held a hearing on the case of journalist Khadija Ismayilova.

 

Defense counsel’s motion:

 

At the court hearing, defense counsel Fariz Namazli made a verbal motion for Khadija Ismayil to be seated next to her lawyers, to allow her to consult with them freely. The state prosecutor asked for the motion to be dismissed. The presiding judge rejected the motion, citing concerns for Khadija Ismayil’s safety.

 

Khadija Ismayilova said she wanted to consult with her lawyers. The presiding judge announced a 10-minute break, during which the defense counsels entered the glass-encased cage. Khadija Ismayilova’s conversation with her lawyers took place in the presence of bailiffs.

 

Khadija Ismayilova’s addendum to the appellate complaint

 

Khadija Ismayilova submitted an addendum to the appellate complaint: “The Baku Grave Crimes Court’s decision states that I do not have any property. I have decided to voluntarily provide information about the property to be confiscated: a 5-storey building in London. All the apartments on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th floors of that building are rented for 9 years by 4 companies registered in Virgin Islands. Due to the fact that property tax for foreign nationals is extremely high in that country, they were not purchased, but rented…”

Ismayilova was referring to properties rented out by Leyla Aliyeva, daughter of the President. The judge turned off Khadija Ismayilova’s microphone, cutting her off.

 

Defense counsels’ speech

 

Defense counsel Fariz Namazli spoke first.

 “It is not right to conduct the proceedings without a judicial investigation. During the preliminary hearing, we filed motions to conduct the proceeding through partial investigation, to examine the evidence that we presented to the court, but the evidence was  not examined. I want to speak about the charges. According to the charge brought under Article 179.3.2 of the Criminal Code, Khadija Ismayilova arranged for a number of individuals, cooperating with Azadliq Radio under service contracts, register as payers of simplified tax instead of income tax, thereby profiting from the 10% difference between simplified tax and income tax, i.e. a total of 17,992.60 AZN. First of all, Khadija Ismayilova has not signed contracts with any of the individuals mentioned in the indictment: Hamidov Shamsaddin Rauf oglu, Babayeva Gulnara Rafig gizi, Javadova Esmira Turab gizi, Mammadov Mustajab Mutallim oglu, Nasibova Malahat Ibrahim gizi, Sadigova Gular Miryahya gizi, Hasanov Samir Mammadali oglu, Zeynalov Eldar Tahir oglu, Nasibov Ilgar Elbay oglu, Mammadli Rafig Humbat oglu and the founder and chief editor of the “Fergli Dushunje” (Different Way of Thinking) magazine Namazov Shahvalad Abutalib oglu. The case materials do not include contracts signed between Khadija Ismayilova and those individuals.”

 

Namazli said that the contracts that the defense had presented to the court of first instance – which the court had refused to examine – showed that Javadova Esmira Turab gizi signed her contract with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Corporation employee Elizabeth Portale, and Namazov Shahvalad Abutalib oglu had signed his contract with the official representative of the radio’s representative office, Yahya Mirzayev. 

 

According to the lawyer, the fact that an individual entrepreneur establishes working relationships with any enterprise or employer on the basis of a service contract rather than an employment contract is not contrary to the existing legislation, and there is no legal provision that prohibits this practice. Forcing the representative office to pay income tax constitutes a gross violation of the right to free enterprise provided by the Constitution of Azerbaijan Republic. 

 

“Shahvalad Namazov has registered as a physical person and obtained a TIN from the tax authorities. Radio Azadliq transferred funds to his personal account, not to the account of the magazine, which had a legal entity status. Unfortunately, the court demonstrated its poor understanding of the Law of Azerbaijan Republic on Mass Media, and, in general, a failure to grasp how radio stations, magazines and editorial offices are regulated. According to Article 14 of the Law on Mass Media, permission from state authorities is not required to establish a print publication. Any legal entity or physical person who wants to establish a print publication is obliged to apply to the relevant executive authority, the Ministry of Justice, 7 days prior to printing the publication. In his testimony provided in court, Shahvalad Chobanoglu stated that he had made such an application to the Ministry of Justice,” the lawyer added. 

 

Fariz Namazli stressed that even if there had been a violation of the law – such as a failure to sign an employment contract – Azerbaijani legislation stipulates a special responsibility for such action.  

He added that the Articles 179.3.2 and 308.2 – under which their client is being charged – refer to a specific person, i.e. the office holder. But Khadija Ismayilova was not responsible for finances; in other words, she was not an office holder. She was not responsible for finances while she was the head of Baku Bureau of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She coordinated production activity on the instructions of the management, and was exclusively engaged in production and programming work. She was not entrusted with any property or financial obligations.

“In her testimony as the accused, Khadija Ismayilova noted that her employment contract does not include any clause assigning financial or administrative authority. Besides, the motion filed with the court to add the contracts signed with Javadova Esmira Turab gizi and Namazov Shahvalad Abutalib oglu to the case file and to examine them was rejected without any legal justification. But those contracts once again confirmed that they were not signed by Khadija Ismayilova. Article 192.2.2 of the Criminal Code deals with illegal entrepreneurship committed by making a large amount of income. RFE/RL Inc. is a non-profit company funded by US Congress and has not engaged in any business activity since its establishment. The information on the Radio’s website says that Radio Liberty is a non-commercial organization funded by the US Congress. Radio Liberty’s mission is to support democratic values and institutions by disseminating news and ideas. Entrepreneurship is a completely different concept and its features have been described in various legislative acts,” emphasized Namazli.

The lawyer also noted that under the 30 December 2008 decision of the National Television and Radio Council, the FM frequency given to Radio Azadliq was revoked on 1 January 2009. At this point, Radio Azadliq ceased its FM broadcasts.

 

Namazli said that obtaining or extending a license was part of the job description of the head of the Baku Bureau, and therefore, the charges against Khadija Ismayilova in this regard are biased and unfair.

 

“As to charges concerning the failure to gain accreditation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Republic, we would like to note that in 2010-2014 Khadija Ismayilova cooperated with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on the basis of a service contract and was not an employee of that radio station or any foreign or local media outlet. She operated as an independent journalist selling her investigative stories to a number of media outlets, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. There is no basis on which the tax evasion charge can be brought against Khadija Ismayilova as the head of the Baku Bureau, because, as noted above, the head of the Baku Bureau did not have administrative or financial authority. Therefore she was not liable for payment of taxes and social payments. Based on the foregoing, we request that Khadija Ismayilova be acquitted,” concluded Fariz Namazli.

 

After that, lawyer Javad Javadov gave his speech. “At the Baku Grave Crimes Court, we presented the decision on the case “ANS versus Ministry of Taxes” as legal precedent. In that case, the signing of service contracts instead of employment contracts with employees was considered illegal by the Ministry of Taxes. However, all court instances considered the Tax Ministry’s claim unfounded and ruled that the Tax Ministry’s decision was contrary to Article 300 of the Civil Code. However, the Grave Crimes Court did not accept that decision. The court of first instance has not conducted a fair investigation. We do not believe either that it would be conducted fairly here,” Javad Javadov said.

 

Next, lawyer Fakhraddin Mehdiyev made a speech. “Initially, the criminal case was launched under Article 125. After Tural Mustafayev said that he had filed the complaint under duress, the investigating authority saw that continuing this case could lead to serious consequences. Therefore, charges related to economic offenses were added. The investigating authority committed serious violations. In order for Article 179 to be relevant there must be a victim, but in this case, there is no victim. There is no victim and no damage. At the court of first instance we filed 35 motions, none of which were granted. Nor have our motions in this court been granted. This proves that the case is biased. The Grave Crimes Court violated Khadija Ismayilova’s right to a fair trial provided for in the European Convention. The court’s decision is a serious blemish on Azerbaijan’s image. This will lead the judges of European Human Rights Court to make a decision that will be a shock for them…” 

 

Khadija Ismayilova’s speech

 

After that, Khadija Ismayilova made a speech: “You do not have the tolerance to listen to free speech. Whoever is in control of the microphone turns it off whenever he wants. This country is ruled by mob law.

(At this point, the judge turned off the microphone again). 

At the court of first instance, I requested that the head of the Anti-Terror Department of the Ministry of National Security, Ilgar Aliyev be interrogated. He directly supervised my case.

(At this point, the judge turned off the microphone again).

You are too old to play with buttons. I am talking on the charges. I was not the head of Azerbaijani Bureau of Radio Liberty. I was the head of Baku Bureau. The charges should have been brought against the Azerbaijani representation, not against me. This is the US Secretary of State John Kerry. Ask him whatever questions you have. I am also charged with failing to gain accreditation. You gain accreditation in order to be able to attend state events. But I was never invited [to state events], because they knew that I would ask them difficult questions. If they do not let me attend the events held in the country, why should I go and obtain accreditation? The prosecutor’s office has written a 16-ton indictment, which does not include a single fact. (Laughing) And yes, I should also say that the property in London, which I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, is not in my name, but in Leyla Aliyeva’s. 

(At this point, the judge turned off the microphone again and cut off Khadija Ismayil’s speech).

 

After this, the public prosecutor made a speech and requested that the verdict of the first instance court be upheld. 

 

The Court of Appeal ruled to uphold the Baku Grave Crimes Court verdict of 1 September 2015.

 

Background: Khadija Ismayil was arrested on 5 December 2014. She was initially charged under article 125 of the Criminal Code (driving to suicide). Later, she faced new charges under articles 179 (misappropriation), 192.2 (illegal entrepreneurship), 213.2 (tax evasion) and 308.2 (abuse of official powers). On September 1, the court acquitted Khadija Ismayil of the charge filed under Article 125 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan Republic (incitment to suicide). However, the court found her guilty under Articles 179.3.2 (misappropriation and waste on a large scale), 192.2.2 (illegal entrepreneurship), 213.1 (tax evasion) and 308.2 (abuse of official powers) and sentenced her to 7.5 years in jail and a 3-year ban from holding certain positions or engaging in certain activities.  Amnesty International has recognized Khadija Ismayil as a prisoner of conscience.

 

Dispatches from Khadija Ismayilova’s trial

 

Khadija Ismayilova’s trial: court orders alleged victim Tural Mustafayev to attend

 

Summary: Hearing 2 (7 August 2015)

 

  • Tural Mustafayev, officially deemed a victim in the case, did not attend the hearing; consequently the court issued an order requiring his presence;

  • The public prosecutor announced the final part of the indictment against Khadija Ismayilova, who stated that the charges were unclear to her;

  • Ismayilova testified, and rejected the charges. She told the court that she had never held any administrative authority at Radio Azadliq (Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani Service);

  • A witness for the prosecution, Aynur Imranova, was questioned and told the court that Ismayilova was innocent and that Tural Mustafayev suffered from mental health issues. She also stated that she had been pressured by investigators to incriminate Ismayilova in her statement;

  • Tural Mustafayev’s ex-fiancée, lawyer Rovshana Rahimli testified;

  • The former head of Radio Liberty’s Baku Office, Babak Bakir, told the court that neither he nor Ismayilova had dealt with contractual or financial matters, and these issues were managed by the Prague headquarters of Radio Liberty.

 

On 7 August, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes heard the case of journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva presided over the hearing.

 

Although a large crowd of people arrived to see the journalist’s trial, the courtroom was filled with people who had no obvious interest in the trial or its participants, while others were denied entry. Only representatives of the US, German and French embassies were allowed in. Ismayilova filed a motion to allow members of the public and journalists to enter the courtroom, aimed at upholding the principle of judicial openness. However, her motion was denied. The defence lawyers, in turn, objected to the composition of the court on the grounds that (1) Ismayilova’s motion had been rejected and (2) that the court required that the witnesses be questioned before the alleged victim. However, this motion was also rejected.

 

Defence motions

 

The defence filed a motion to allow the journalist to sit next to her lawyers, but this was denied, on the grounds that Ismayilova was being held inside the glass cage for her own safety.

 

A second defence motion addressed the issue of financial authority and liability. Because the Radio Liberty Azerbaijani service (RL) had an account with the Azerbaijan International Bank (AIB), argued the defence, an inquiry must be sent to the AIB to establish whether they had held Ismayilova’s sample signature as the head of RL’s Baku Bureau, and/or payment orders bearing her signature intended for the conduct of financial operations.

 

The lawyers filed another motion requesting the court to add the decisions on opening and suspending the tax inspection in RL’s Baku Office to the case file.

 

The motions were denied.

 

Announcement of the indictment

 

Public prosecutor Ramazan Hadiyev announced the concluding section of the indictment. He noted that after finding out that Tural Mustafayev was engaged to another woman and despite knowing that he had attempted suicide, Ismayilova prevented him from gaining employment at RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service in order to render him financially dependent on her, thereby humiliating his dignity.

 

The prosecutor also stated that from 1 July 2008 until 1 January 2009, Ismayilova hired employees for RL’s Baku Office, acts which due to RL’s unlicensed status, constituted illegal entrepreneurship (generating 335,880 AZN in revenue). Ismayilova was also alleged to have evaded 45,145 AZN in taxes. The public prosecutor added that there was sufficient evidence that she had committed these crimes.

 

Khadija Ismayilova’s testimony

 

Ismayilova argued that the charges brought against her were groundless. “While I was at Radio Azadliq, I did not employ anyone or sign any contract. I was responsible only for the broadcast programmes and quality control of published articles. Employment contracts were signed by the Prague office. As for Tural Mustafayev, I had no relationship with him at all”.

 

Prosecution witnesses

 

The first witness to take the stand was journalist Aynur Imranova. She told the court that she had been interviewed extensively by investigators, and requested the court to ask specific questions.

 

Prosecutor: Did you have any contact with Radio Azadliq? How long have you known Khadija? How do you know her? Which of Khadija Ismayilova’s programmes have you been involved in? Have you applied to Radio Azadliq to work as a journalist? Why did you want to work there? Were you a taxpayer? Until when were you friends with Khadija Ismayilova? Have you collaborated on any projects? How do you know Tural Mustafayev and since when? Were you together with Tural Mustafayev’s fiancée Rovshana Rahimova on 9 March 2014? What do you know about Khadija’s relationship with Tural Mustafayev? Do you have any information about Tural Mustafayev’s attempted suicide?

 

Aynur Imranova: I did not have contact with Radio Azadliq. I have known Khadija since 2012. I participated in several of her programmes as well as in other presenters’ programmes. I have not worked for Radio Azadliq. I applied once and Khadija told me that she did not handle recruitment, as she was not authorised. The reason I wanted to work for Radio Azadliq was because I thought my articles were similar to their style. Yes, I have been a taxpayer for quite a long time. Khadija and I have not met since May 2014 due to personal problems. I have developed a project on capacity-building of investigative journalists, and Khadija voluntarily assisted me in translating my project. Khadija’s investigations are well known in many parts of the world. I have known Tural Mustafayev since 2013; we met when Khadija was returning from abroad. I met Rovshana Rahimli on 9 March 2014 in a café. Tural attempted suicide because he quarrelled with Rovshana Rahimli several times. I have been questioned by five people at the investigative agency. I have no information about the relationship between Khadija and Tural. Tural is an alcoholic who is mentally ill. He used to beat Rovshana Rahimli. Once Tural tried to hang himself but he failed; he took a photo of this, which he shared via MMS with friends. The investigators took my statement under pressure. They offered me an apartment, money, and so on if I would testify against Khadija.

 

The former head of RL’s Baku Bureau, Babak Bakir, was next to testify. He told the court that he had cooperated with Radio Azadliq since 1997, and that in 2005 he became a full-time employee. “From 2010 till 2014, I worked as a coordinator, which is essentially the acting head. But recruitment and salaries were both determined by the Prague office. Yahya Mirzayev was in charge of dealing with documentation. Khadija and I were not involved in it. I had an account with Azerbaijan International Bank. I worked based on an employment contract and paid all relevant taxes. Our employees were accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I know Tural Mustafayev. He wanted to work for RL, and I employed him. He was not a staffer. Once he wrote me an e-mail saying that he was tired and wanted to leave his job and wanted to give up journalism for awhile. But later, he worked for Meydan TV. After quitting his job there, he applied to work with us again, but we did not have any vacancies. The head of the RL’s Baku Bureau was not entitled to be involved with financial matters. After leaving the position of the Bureau head, I worked as a correspondent, and the coordinator was Zeynal Mammadli. Khadija Ismayilova did not express any opinion on Tural Mustafayev”.

 

Hakim Ahmadov, who works as a security guard on Baku Boulevard, also testified. He said that he did not know Khadija. “Citizens reported an incident, and I called an ambulance. None of his relatives or friends were present, until one person came. The man was conscious and able to talk. Then the ambulance arrived and took him”, said the witness.

 

The court scheduled the next hearing for 10 August at 11.00am.

 

Three journalists attempting to film the hearing from outside were taken to the police office, but were later released. After the hearing, journalists who wanted to interview the hearing participants were attacked. The assailants tried to smash their cameras and the police officer guarding the court failed to intervene. A journalist who tried to take refuge inside the court building was forced out by the police officers.

 

Background: Khadija Ismayilova was arrested on 5 December 2014. She was initially charged under article 125 of the Criminal Code (incitement to suicide). Later, she faced new charges under articles 179.3.2 (misappropriation – on a large scale); 192.2.2 (implementation of illegal business activity – with extraction of income in a large amount); 213 (evasion of payment of taxes or other obligatory payments of a significant amount); and 308.2 (abuse of official powers – entailing heavy consequences or committed to influence the outcome of an election or referendum). Amnesty International has recognised Ismayilova as a prisoner of conscience.

 

Journalists attacked after Khadija Ismayilova’s trial

 

On 7 August, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes held a hearing in the case of journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Numerous journalists and activists arrived to attend the hearing, but were not allowed in. The court guards only allowed representatives of foreign missions (the US, German, and French embassies) to enter the courtroom. The court officers said that the courtroom was full and no empty seats were left. Journalist Orkhan Rustemzade, who was filming in front of the courthous, was taken to Police Station #22. He was released after two hours, after giving a statement.

 

After the hearing was over, Voice of America radio journalist Tapdig Farhadoglu asked those leaving the court building whether Ismayilova had attended the hearing. The situation escalated when he asked an elderly man, who said he had attended the hearing, whether he was related to Ismayilova. Farhadoglu was then assaulted by two women and a man. Meydan TV journalists Izolda Agayeva and Aytaj Ahmadova, filming together with Radio Liberty reporter Islam Shikhali, also faced violence; an elderly woman took a glass bottle from a bin and attempted to hit Aytaj Ahmadova. Fortunately Ahmadova’s colleagues intercepted the blow, but another woman did manage to hit Ahmadova with her bag. A man attacked and tried to assault Shikhali, but he managed to escape.

 

Meanwhile, one of the women threw her shoe at Tapdig Farhadoglu, who tried to seek refuge in the court building, but the court guards and police forced him back out towards the waiting crowd. A young man came from a distance and hit Farhadoglu. Police officers present at the scene failed to intervene and protect members of the press from this outbreak of violence. The police and assailants told Farhadoglu to refrain from “causing provocations”.

 

Khadija Ismayilova’s trial: Alleged victim Tural Mustafayev admits to slandering Ismayilova during the investigation

 

Summary: Hearing 3 (10 August 2015)

 

  • Tural Mustafayev, the alleged victim in Khadija Ismayilova’s case, testified that it was he who had slandered Ismayilova, and he had suffered no emotional damage and had no claims against her;

  • Mustafayev’s mother and father, who were questioned as prosecution witnesses, stated they had no claims against Khadija;

  • Prosecution witness Rovshana Rahimli told the court that Mustafayev (her former fiancé) was mentally ill, physically abusive towards her, and that each time they had split up, he had attempted suicide; 

  • The defence’s motions to include Mustafayev’s interview in the evidence list and to revoke his victim status were denied; 

  • Prosecution witness Shahvalad Chobanoglu testified, stating that Khadija herself was the victim of a crime.

 

On 10 August, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes resumed the hearing in the case against journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva presided over the hearing.

 

Although numerous people wanted to attend the trial, the courtroom had been filled in advance with people unrelated to the trial, and so many of those seeking to attend were denied entry. Only the representatives of the US, German and French embassies were permitted to observe.

 

Defence motions

 

The defence filed a motion requesting that the media interviews of Tural Mustafayev, recognised as a victim by the prosecution, be included in the evidence list. In those interviews, Mustafayev said that law enforcement agencies had blackmailed several people with secretly recorded videos in order to compel them to give statements incriminating Ismayilova.

With regard to the lawyer’s motion, Ismayilova said, “Tural Mustafayev’s first statement against me was written on 25 November, but the prosecutor’s office had obtained the court warrant to listen to my phone conversation a month earlier, on 28 October. Did the prosecutor’s office receive some kind of revelation or glean news of the future from extra-terrestrials in order to know that Tural would file such a complaint, enabling them to obtain the warrant in advance?”

 

The lawyer also requested that Mustafayev’s victim status be dismissed; however both motions were denied.

 

Tural Mustafayev’s testimony

 

Mustafayev testified that his suicide attempt on 20 October 2014 was unrelated to Ismayilova. “I got to know Khadija Ismayilova in October 2013, and our relationship was purely professional. Neither my employment at Radio Azadliq, nor my decision to leave, nor my cooperation with Meydan TV bears any relation to Ismayilova. The documentation regarding my treatment at a psychiatric patient in Mashtaga [settlement] is in the case file. Due to my poor mental health I attempted suicide three times in 2014”.

 

However, due to the contradiction between the statement Mustafayev gave in court and his prior statement, the court read out the statement he had provided during the investigation.

 

When the court asked for an explanation for this contradiction, Mustafayev said he had slandered Ismayilova in the testimony he provided to the investigators. “I had no dependence on Khadija in any way. She played no role in my dismissal from my job, or my drinking the rat poison. I do not consider myself a victim”, said Mustafayev.

 

Prosecution witnesses

 

Mustafayev’s mother, Nazakat Mustafayeva, who had been interrogated by investigators as a witness, was also questioned. She said that she lives in Goychay. Her son came to Baku in late 2013, but she was unaware of his job or the persons with whom he was involved. However, in her initial testimony to investigators, she confirmed her son’s statement and requested that Ismayilova be held to account for driving her son to attempt suicide.

 

The next prosecution witness, Mustafayev’s ex-fiancée Rovshana Rahimli, told the court that Mustafayev had attempted to take his own life three times, and that none of these incidents had been related to Ismayilova. She requested that the court consider her court testimony as valid, because her testimony to the investigators had been distorted.

 

“I met Tural on 8 March 2014 at a holiday party and we got engaged on 28 May. He suffered from mental health issues. While we were together, he attempted suicide three times. Tural repeatedly insulted and physically assaulted me when he was drunk, but then he would promise to behave and we would reconcile. On 15 October, we had a big argument, leading me to file a police complaint on 16 October. After drinking rat poison on the Boulevard on 20 October, Tural Mustafayev wrote a text message to my friend Samira Agayeva saying that he did not want to live without me. After the suicide attempt, he was first taken to Semashko [hospital] and kept there for one day, before being transferred to the mental health unit. We consulted a doctor while we were together, and he was diagnosed as a psychopath, meaning that his condition is impossible to treat”, Rahimli told the court.

Mustafayev’s father also testified as a witness. “I had already said to investigators that we did not suspect anyone. Then we went to Rovshana’s house and she said that it might have been done by Khadija Ismayilova and I was convinced. I do not have a complaint against anyone. Rovshana Rahimli told me that Tural lost his job and could not find a new one because of Khadija”, he said. But when Ismayilova asked him, “Do you consider me guilty in your son’s suicide?”, he replied, “I do not blame anyone at all”.

 

When the judge asked about the discrepancies between his initial testimony and his statement in court, he replied that he had simply repeated what he had heard from Rahimli to the investigators.

 

Samira Agayeva also confirmed in her testimony that Mustafayev had psychological problems. “Before his suicide attempt, I met him in the city and he said that he had been drinking for a week and did not want to live. And an hour later, I received a text message that read “Tell Roshka that I did what she had told me…”

 

Mustafayev’s ex-wife Shafa Mustafayeva said they were divorced on 8 May 2014 and have two children, and that Mustafayev had gotten engaged to Rovshana after the divorce. “I heard from his family that he was unemployed and had lost his mind. I did not face any pressure from the investigators”, said Mustafayeva.

 

Another witness for the prosecution, Matanat Abdinova, who worked as a cleaner for Radio Azadliq, said she was hired in 2008 and signed a service contract with Mr. Yahya. “I did not sign a contract with Khadija. She only gave me instructions related to cleaning. I discussed all my job-related issues with Mr. Yahya. My salary was transferred to my bank account, and I paid all the required taxes”.

 

According to witness Gulnaz Guliyeva, she was hired as a translator for Radio Azadliq by Ismayilova. “I was not a permanent employee. I worked with a TIN. I had a bank account, which is now closed”.

 

Shahvalad Chobanoglu testified that he had first been questioned in December 2014, but the interrogation was not directly related to Ismayilova, because the charges against her were only brought in February 2015. “Khadija herself is the victim of a crime. I have been a taxpayer since 2006. Khadija Ismayilova was not involved in my work. I was the editor and founder of the ‘Different Opinion’ magazine, which was registered with the Ministry of Justice. All related funds were transferred to my bank account and I paid four per cent as tax”.

 

Next, a former employee of Radio Azadliq, Chingiz Sultansoy, testified. “When I was summoned for interrogation, I requested a lawyer, but the authorities told me that the lawyer could come later. Nonetheless, I refused to provide a testimony. Then I was questioned for three hours. They asked numerous questions. I told them that I had signed my employment contract with the [RFE/RL] head office, and showed them my contract. I said that I had been hired by Kenan Aliyev, and that my salary bore no relation to Khadija Ismayilova”, the journalist told the court.

 

Khadija Ismayilova’s trial: The court finishes questioning prosecution witnesses

 

Summary: Hearing 6 (13 August 2015)

 

  • The court denied a series of motions filed by the defence regarding some details that would prove important for the case and ensure its objective investigation;

  • Radio Azadliq employee Ulker Guliyeva, who had been questioned by the prosecution, testified and answered questions related to the radio;

  • The court announced the witness statement of Radio Azadliq technical maintenance worker Farid Abdullayev, who had been interrogated by the prosecution;

  • Khadija Ismayilova and her lawyers objected to the rapid pace of the trial, but the court did not take the objection into account.  

 

On 13 August, the third successive hearing was held in the case of journalist Khadija Ismayilova in the Baku Court of Grave Crimes. Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva presided over the hearing.

 

As in previous days, only representatives of a few embassies and government media outlets were allowed to enter the courtroom.

 

Defence motions

 

The defence requested that Shahla Humbatova be questioned as a witness in relation to the suicide attempt of Tural Mustafayev, who was considered a victim by the court. The motion was rejected.

 

lawyer Fariz Namazli also stressed the importance of further investigation of the claims that Mustafayev had been fired from Meydan TV at Ismayilova’s insistence. The lawyer said they had sent an inquiry to Meydan TV in this regard and received a response, and they wanted this response to be included in the evidence list, but the judge refused to do so, because, according to her, the source of the response was suspicious. 

 

The defence then requested the inclusion in the evidence list of Tural Mustafayev’s email correspondence with the head of Radio Liberty’s Baku Bureau, Babak Bakir, about his intention to quit his job at Radio Azadliq. However, this motion was similarly dismissed.

 

The defence filed a motion to summon Adil Ismayilov, a representative of Radio Azadliq, to the trial, but the judge also denied this motion.

 

“At least, don’t make it so clear that you’ve closed the radio station because of me. You closed down the radio station to arrest me, because you needed to arrest me after searching the radio station, but you did the opposite”, Ismayilova said.

 

Lawyer Fariz Namazli noted that during his testimony as a victim, Tural Mustafayev stated that he had not voluntarily presented his personal Facebook correspondence to the prosecutor’s office. Therefore, the lawyer requested that this correspondence be removed from the evidence list, but the motion was denied.

 

Namazli also requested that relevant structures of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies and representatives of the National Television and Radio Council be summoned to court as additional witnesses in connection with the issue of the radio station’s broadcast. However, this motion was rejected too. 

 

The lawyers and Ismayilova protested the rapid pace at which the trial was being held, and requested more time, but the judge did not take their request into account.

Ismayilova objected to the judge. “You say a 15-year sentence awaits me. I am ready to be jailed even for 25 years. At least I would spend a small part of it here, in the courtroom, striving and fighting for my rights. To ensure my rights. I understand that you’ve been given an order with regard to me. You already know what sentence you’ll give me. Maybe you even feel remorse for coming and seeing me here every day. But, give me an opportunity to defend my rights”, said Ismayilova.

 

Prosecution witnesses

 

Radio Azadliq employee Ulker Guliyeva, a witness for the prosecution, gave her testimony. She was asked about the radio station’s activities and the difference between full-time employees and contract workers. Ulker Guliyev said she had been working for the radio station since 2005 and received her salary in her International Bank account and then via a plastic card. She told the court that there was no significant difference between full-time employees and contract workers.

 

Radio Azadliq’s technical maintenance worker Farid Abdullayev was then due to testify, but as he was not present, his investigation statement was read. In his statement, he had noted that he worked based on a service contract and paid all required taxes. He had added that he had once seen another Radio Azadliq employee, Javanshir Agamaliyev, receive a few thousand AZN in addition to his salary in his bank account, and withdraw the money from his account.

 

Ismayilova objected to this statement, saying that Farid Abdullayev’s statement had changed and he must come to court. The court said this issue would be assessed at the end.

 

Thus, the questioning of prosecution witnesses was completed and the next hearing was set for 14 August at 15.00.

 

Defence motions repeatedly rejected

 

Summary: Hearing 7 (14 August 2015)

 

  • Khadija Ismayilova objected to the presiding judge and the court clerk, but her objections were dismissed;

  • Defence lawyers filed a number of key motions, but all were denied by the court.

 

Journalist Khadija Ismayilova’s trial continued at the Baku Court of Grave Crimes on 14 August. Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva presided over the hearing.

 

It was another semi-closed hearing. As in previous hearings, employees of the APA, Virtualaz.org and Telegraph news agencies were allowed to enter the courtroom in advance. While representatives of the US, German, French, and Norwegian embassies, Ismayilova’s family members, and an Azadliq newspaper reporter were let in through the second door, representatives from the UK embassy and Human Rights Watch were denied entry. Many journalists and members of the public were also prevented from attending denied entry. Numerous police officers and non-uniformed Ministry of National Security (MNS) officers were waiting near the court building.

 

The seats in the courtroom were again filled with outsiders, non-uniformed court staff, and MNS employees.

 

Defendant’s objections

 

As soon as the hearing started, Ismayilova presented an objection to the presiding judge, which stated:

 

“Referring to Article 109.1.8 of the Criminal Procedure Code of (CPC) Azerbaijan Republic, I object to Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva, considering the fact that she has demonstrated bias throughout the court proceedings. This motion is based on the following circumstances:

 

1) The presiding judge has violated the principle of the equality of parties. The defendant, in breach of the law, was not been provided with copies of the criminal case documents during the investigation, and was given only a small part of the required documents after filing a motion with the court. The decision to deny a second motion was justified on the grounds that ‘those [which have been] presented are enough’. Thus, the judge ignored a violation of Article 285 of the CPC and demonstrated her interest in the unequal status of the defence in the criminal prosecution. The decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan Republic ‘On the Application of the Provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in the Administration of Justice’ of 30 May 2006 was also violated as a result of these actions.

 

2) Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva threatened the defendant at a court hearing, saying that a 15-year jail sentence awaited her. This threat was not voiced in the context of interpreting the legislation or the totality of the crimes. The judge said it in response to the defendant’s criticisms and insistence that she would answer questions only at a public hearing.

 

3) Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva refused to include in the case file the documents refuting charges that had been presented by witnesses, namely the [employment/service] contracts presented to the court by Shahvalad Namazov and Chingiz Sultanov. Instead, she returned the documents to the witnesses.

 

4) None of the defence’s motions were granted.

 

5) The defence motion filed on 13 August 2015, which requested questioning of witnesses, was rejected. Namely, the motions that requested questioning of witness Humbatova Shahla Knyaz gizi and representatives of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies were denined, although the motions stated that the questioning of those witnesses was of great importance in uncovering the truth. Those witnesses possess first-hand information regarding the allegations made in the indictment. In addition, the defence motion for the questioning of the representative of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) was also rejected. The court agreed with the prosecutors’ objections that the charges were against Khadija Ismayilova, not Radio Liberty, although RFE/RL is often mentioned in the indictment and their documents are cited, and the charges are related to Khadija Ismayilova’s activities in this organisation.

 

6) The judge refused to include in the case file Tural Mustafayev’s interview with Azadliq newspaper of 4 August 2015, and his video message published on YouTube on 3 May 2015, deeming them ‘questionable’ evidence, although the motion to include the YouTube message in the case file was also filed by the victim Mustafayev himself. During his questioning [in court], Mustafayev confirmed what he had said in that video message, and asserted that he had been pressured by the prosecution.

 

7) The motion to revoke Tural Mustafayev’s victim status, which was backed by Mustafayev as well, was rejected groundlessly.

 

8) By scheduling a hearing every day, Allahverdiyeva deprived the defendant of the opportunity to liaise with her lawyers, thus violating the right to effective defence. The judge has ignored the repeated requests and objections made in this regard. Allahverdiyeva also overruled the objections regarding interference by court guards in confidential discussions between the defendant and her lawyer, and failed to intervene in this regard. I should remind that the investigation of evidence is the direct duty of the court under the CPC.

 

Considering the bias that Ramella Allahverdiyeva has demonstrated during the court proceedings by violating all her duties set forth in Article 28.4 of CPC, I request that she be dismissed from the present case. I request that the above-mentioned circumstances be re-investigated and new decisions be made on these motions under the chairmanship of an impartial judge. I want to additionally note that in the detention facility, I came across people repeatedly accused and convicted of many crimes, and among them, there are some charged under Article 144, which is human trafficking. Among people, they are known as “mama rosa” [nickname for a female procurer]. What Ramella Allahverdiyeva has done to Themis is nothing compared to what those women have done to the victims of human trafficking. You have not respected the justice legislation and have turned it into the bondmaid of the prosecutor’s office. I request that the court disqualify you from this proceeding. I don’t want to see the law being insulted in such a non-professional manner”.

 

The defence backed the motion. Commenting on the objection, the public prosecutor said that the motions [referred to in the objection] were vague and unsupported by the circumstances of the case and not consistent with the case materials. He said that they had not been filed in accordance with criminal procedure legislation, and there were no grounds to justify them. He further remarked that the issues raised in those motions were of a general nature and were rightly rejected by the court’s rulings. He therefore noted that there were no grounds on which to object to the judge who made those rulings. After a deliberation, the panel of judges rejected the objection as unfounded.

 

Ismayilova then declared that she wanted to present an objection against the court clerk on the grounds that the court minutes had been falsified, and said that she wanted to discuss this objection with her lawyers. As the reason for the objection, Ismayilova referred to the misrepresentation and misinterpretation of the judges’ words regarding the 15-year jail sentence awaiting her in the court minutes. Ismayilova said that the true context of these words had been shown in the media. Ismayilova recalled that after the court’s denial of her motion requesting audio and video recording of the proceedings, she had asked to see the court minutes, but the court had not agreed. Ismayilova expressed her objection to the court clerk and requested that she be given an opportunity to familiarise herself with the minutes of the court hearings. Ismayilova noted that there could be other cases of falsification regarding other matters and she wanted to file motions for the timely correction of those falsifications. But the court denied this motion.   

 

Lawyers’ motions

 

Lawyer Fariz Namazli filed a number of motions during the hearing. The lawyer requested that the representative of Radio Azadliq, Adil Ismayilov, be invited to the hearing for the reason that the charges filed against Ismayilova were related to her activities at Radio Azadliq. “A criminal case has been launched against Radio Azadliq in a separate proceeding, and investigations are allegedly on-going. Since the charges are directly related to the activities of Radio Azadliq, it is important that its representative, Adil Ismayilov, be invited to the hearing and questioned to clarify their position”. However, this motion was rejected.

 

The second motion requested that the following documents be added to the case file and investigated at the stage of examining the documents: a letter dated 23 April 2015 of the National Television and Radio Council (NTRC); an extract from the minutes of the NTRC’s meeting #11 dated 30 December 2008; a letter dated 14 May 2015 of the State Radio Frequency Department of Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies; a letter dated 23 June 2015 of the Radio and Television Broadcasting and Satellite Communications Production Association of the Ministry; and a letter #255/6 dated 30 December 2008 of the NTRC. This motion was also rejected. 

 

The lawyer also requested that the contracts signed between Javadova Esmira Tural gizi and the RFE/RL Corporation and between Namazov Shahvalad Abutalib oglu and the RFE/RL Corporation be added to the criminal case materials and examined at the stage of examining the documents. This motion was denied. 

 

Namazli filed another motion requesting that six witnesses mentioned in the indictment be questioned. The lawyers also requested time to prepare new motions and to hold discussions with Ismayilova for this purpose.

 

The next hearing was set for 18 August at 11.00am.

 

Prosecutor seeks nine-year jail sentence for Khadija Ismayilova

 

Summary: Hearing 8 (18 August 2015)

 

  • Khadija Ismayilova presented a letter to the chairman of the court requesting the protection of the presiding judge’s right to vacation time;

  • Ismayilova raised an objection to the composition of the panel of judges, which remained unconsidered;

  • Ismayilova and her lawyers filed numerous motions, but none were granted.

 

On 18 August, the hearing resumed at the Baku Court of Grave Crimes. Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva presided over the hearing.

 

Like previous hearings, this hearing was semi-closed. Only Ismayilova’s family members and representatives of the German and UK embassies were allowed to attend the hearing. From the media, only Azadliq newspaper and APA news agency reporters were permitted entry. Numerous other journalists and members of the public who attempted to observe the hearing were again denied entry to the courtroom. Once again, many others unrelated to the case were already seated in the courtroom.

 

Khadija Ismayilova’s letter to the chairman of the court

 

At the beginning of the hearing, Ismayilova said she had a letter to be presented to Mahmud Nabiyev, the Chairman of the Baku Court of Grave Crimes.

 

The letter said: “For the sake of a fair trial, ensure Ramella Allahverdiyeva’s right to vacation. The summer is going to be over and the holiday season is about to end, and I don’t want my right of defence to be violated or to be tried based on hasty decisions made in a hasty proceeding. Please, do not base the judge’s right to rest on the progress of my trial, and allow Allahverdiyeva to go on vacation. I will wait. If after returning from the vacation the judge continues the proceeding earnestly and without haste, I think that it will benefit the justice henceforth. Best wishes, Khadija Ismayilova”.

 

The judge said that the letter written to the court chairman had no relation to her and advised it be presented to the court though the mail or a lawyer.

 

Ismayilova then stated her objection to the composition of the bench. “Considering the fact that the court panel is interested in the criminal prosecution and has violated the principle of equality of parties, I object to the composition of the bench, referring to Article 109.1.8 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The objection is based on the following arguments:

 

1) The court is consistently denying the defence motions, including those that request the inclusion in the case file of the documents and the questioning of witnesses, both of which serve the purpose of an objective investigation. Thus, the court only supports the stance of the prosecutor and does not create conditions for the defendant to defend herself.

 

2) Judge Karimov Novruz Agakarim oglu justifies the threats made against the defendant by the presiding Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva, thereby violating the law. Moreover, the panel demonstrates unanimity in rejecting the [defence] motions, while repeating the prosecutor’s statements verbatim. Such cases continued to occur after another objection had been raised against the presiding judge, and the panel chaired by Ramella Allahverdiyeva prevented the inclusion into the case file of the documents confirming that only Radio Liberty, not Khadija Ismayilova, was authorised to hire new employees, and the documents confirming that the license issues related to the radio’s broadcasting were dealt with by the Baku Bureau. In view of the above-said, I request that the composition of the panel be changed and the Judicial Legal Council be requested to investigate the illegal actions of the judges Ramella Allahverdiyeva, Tamilla Nasirullayeva, and Novruz Karimov. I would like to add that Judge Novruz Karimov not only justified a breach of law, but also made references to the falsifications in the minutes. Considering the inadmissibility of a judge’s telling lies, I believe that the current panel cannot consider this case”. The defence lawyers backed the motion. 

 

Commenting on the motion, the public prosecutor Ramazan Hadiyev said as in the previous objection to the presiding judge, this objection was not supported by reasonable evidence. He noted that the alignment of the prosecutor’s and the court’s positions cannot be interpreted as the court’s partiality. He said the objection was unfounded and requested that it remain unconsidered. The judge broke for a deliberation to discuss the objection. After the deliberation, the court left the motion unconsidered.

  

Defence motions

 

Then, Ismayilova filed a motion requesting the court to present any contract or payment order bearing her signature. She quoted the bill of indictment as stating that she had allegedly hired employees to Radio Azadliq based on service contracts, enabling them to pay less tax to the state budget. Ismayilova said there were no contracts or payment orders bearing her signature, adding that she would welcome the opportunity to see them in court. The prosecutor declared the motion was unfounded and requested that it be rejected. The judge denied the motion after a short deliberation. 

 

Subsequently, Ismayilova and her lawyer Fariz Namazli filed a motion to question additional witnesses, namely, Interpress website editor Ramal Huseynov, ann.az website director Naila Bagirova, and Aznews website editor-in-chief Elchin Zahiroglu. In support of the motion, the defence noted that Ramal Huseynov’s statement was cited in the indictment, and he therefore had to be summoned and questioned.

 

The judge said that while testifying in court Tural Mustafayev admitted slandering Ismayilova, and several other witnesses also recanted their original investigation statements defending her position. The judge said that the fact that Mustafayev and others provided testimonies that differed from their investigation statements would be assessed during the court’s deliberations, and that there was no need to question additional witnesses.

 

Next, lawyer Javad Javadov filed a motion, which said: “The investigative agency accuses Khadija Ismayilova of engaging in journalistic activities without being accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Note that there is a presidential decree dated 2 September 2002 on improving the rules for licensing certain types of activities, according to which, journalistic activity does not require a license. This is a fantasy made up by the investigative agency, which has deemed Khadija Ismayilova’s activity to be illegal entrepreneurship. Therefore, we request that the court send a request to the Constitutional Court to clarify whether, according to the legislation, journalism is an activity requiring a license”. Ismayilova supported her lawyer’s motion, saying, “It is indeed an absolute fantasy. Your president gathers media workers and says that you need to gain access to the foreign press, while, on the other hand, you require a license for working as a journalist for the foreign press”. Judge Novruz Karimov rejected the motion . 

  

Lawyer Javad Javadov filed a motion requesting that psychiatrist Araz Mahmudchayli be questioned as an additional witness, on the basis that Tural Mustafayev’s ex-fiancée Rovshana Rahimli had told the court that Mustafayev had serious mental health issues, and they had appealed to psychiatrist Araz Mahmudchayli, who had diagnosed Mustafayev as an incurable psychopath. The judge denied this motion as well.

 

Lawyer Javad Javadov then noted that the documents seized during the search in Radio Liberty’s Baku office had not been recorded separately in the list, which constituted a gross violation of the procedural legislation, meaning that those documents could not be regarded as evidence. The lawyer requested that they be removed from the evidence list. Judge Novruz Karimov rejected the motion.

 

After that, lawyer Fariz Namazli filed a motion requesting that the documents on the results of the on-site tax inspection conducted in the Baku office of Radio Liberty be obtained from the Ministry of Taxes at the request of the court, added to the case file, and examined. Judge Novruz Karimov declared that this motion was also denied.

  

Ismayilova said the court guards were interfering in her consultations with her lawyers and requested the court to give her time for consultations: “I am not adequately enabled to communicate with my lawyers. I cannot consult my lawyers even while in court, as the guards listen in on our conversations. My lawyers are hindered from giving me documents. My right of defence is violated. On the other hand, being brought to court every day, my right to walk in open air and to meet with my family is also violated. I request one week from the court to consult with my lawyers conveniently”.

 

Ismayilova also requested that the alleged victim Tural Mustafayev be brought to court when she would testify. She said that after other witnesses testified, she would have some questions for the victim. She stressed that Mustafayev’s personal presence was important, as his representative did not possess information about his private life.

 

The judge denied the motion, saying that Mustafayev had attended the hearing.

 

Khadija Ismayilova’s testimony

 

“I am charged with abuse of official powers as the head of the representative office of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, tax evasion and misappropriation in favour of a third party. I have not been the head of the Azerbaijani Representation. The Baku Bureau is not the Azerbaijani Representation. The Azerbaijani Representation has its regulations. Management of the representation is carried out by the head appointed by the company. I have not hired anyone. I myself was hired. I have not signed a contract with anyone. My contract was signed by John Kapler. There has not been such a legal entity as the Baku Bureau of Radio Liberty. The Baku Bureau was one of the radio station’s departments. My duties as the head of the Bureau were to produce quality products and to effectively divide the workforce. In general, it is a rule in the western media that there are two branches: financial and production. I oversaw the production aspect and have not been engaged in financial issues. Like the rest of the radio staff, I was also hired. And I did a good job. Therefore, I have been arrested. Radio Liberty [Radio Azadliq] has made an invaluable contribution in revealing truth in the country. This is one of the reasons behind my arrest.

 

The contacts regarding the frequencies and broadcasting were signed with the US Broadcasting Board of Governors. The license was acquired by the US Broadcasting Board of Governors. This institution is based in Washington, and its head is the US Secretary of State. If you have any comments regarding this matter, address them to John Kerry. There is no editorial office in Azerbaijan, where there are no contract workers in addition to full-time staff. I preferred working as a contract worker myself after leaving the managerial position, because I wanted to be free. I made this choice preferring freedom, and to cooperate with other organisations. I came when I wished, and did not come when I did not wish. I was offered to sign an employment contract as a full-time employee, but I refused.

 

What I am doing here now is proving that yoghurt is actually white, because the prosecution has problems understanding even the simplest issues. I understand that an order has been given for my arrest. But at least they should have made a bit of an effort and put something forward. They made up something in Intigam Aliyev’s case, but not in mine. I feel hurt. You should have shown me the same respect which you showed to Intigam Aliyev. Speaking lengthily about such simple things is an insult to my intelligence. With such an approach to the case, you insult my intelligence. Even the colour-blind understand that yoghurt is white, but the employees of the prosecutor’s office do not. Did you need to keep me in detention for eight months to understand that the Baku Bureau is not the Azerbaijani Representation? How much did this government need to spend to keep me in detention? By the way, by being detained I found out secrets. For example, I learned that prisoners are not given the meat and cheese that are meant to be given to them. It would be better if the prosecutor’s office investigated such cases of corruption. It was there, where I learned how and where the prosecution authorities committed falsifications and from whom they received bribes”.

 

Then, the judge invited Ismayilova to testify in relation to Article 125. Ismayilova said she would not testify as long as Mustafayev’s presence was not ensured. Mustafayev’s representative Safar Huseynov said he could answer necessary questions, but Ismayilova objected. The judge said that Mustafayev had answered Ismayilova’s questions in court, and announced the notes made in the minutes.

 

Finally, the judge declared the beginning of the document examination stage. The next hearing was set for 19 August at 15.00.

 

Court partially grants only one of numerous defence motions

 

Summary: Hearing 9 (19 August 2015)

 

  • The court examined case documents at this hearing, and the documents in the case file were announced;

  • Khadija Ismayilova’s lawyers filed a number of motions, but only one of them, which requested that Tax Ministry employees be summoned and questioned as witnesses, was granted;

  • Imran Nurmammadov, a state tax inspector with the Baku Taxes Department, was questioned as a witness.

 

On 19 August, another hearing was held in the criminal case against Khadija Ismayilova at the Baku Court of Grave Crimes. Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva presided over the hearing.

 

The courtroom was again filled with people unrelated to the trial, with many of those attempting to attend denied access. At the hearing, the court continued to examine case documents. The court announced the documents in the case file. Khadija Ismayilova requested that the expert psychological opinion on Tural Mustafayev be read out in court. She said that she had been shown that document by the investigator on the day of her arrest. Ismayilova noted that in that document, Mustafayev was described as having mental problems over the past two years. However, the court could not find the said document in the case file, and stated that it would be announced as soon as it was found.

 

The presiding judge announced another expert opinion on Mustafayev. According to opinion #4267 issued by expert Vusal Mammadov, the issues that drove Mustafayev to attempt suicide were his failure to find a job, his financial difficulties, the tension in his relationship with his fiancée Rovshana Rahimli, the negative opinion of him generated by rumours spread about him, and Ismayilova’s actions towards him. The expert opinion stated that at the time of his suicide attempt, Mustafayev had not suffered any mental illness and was able to plan his actions carefully.

 

At that point, Ismayilova noted that the motions regarding the examination had been only partially granted,.. Moreover, said Ismayilova, the expert opinion issued in December, which was to be presented to the victim within 10 days according to the Criminal Procedure Code, was given to him only in February. She noted that it was a gross violation of the law and added, “If you accept that instance of violation of the law as evidence, then please proceed”.

 

Lawyer Fariz Namazli recalled that at one of the previous hearings, when the defence filed a motion for the questioning of six witnesses, the prosecutor said there was no need as those witnesses’ investigation statements had been included in the case file. The lawyer then requested that the statements and contracts of those six witnesses, Shamsaddin Hamidov, Gulnara Babayeva, Mustajab Mammadov, Malahat Nasibova, Gular Sadigova and Samir Hasanov, be announced. The judge said these persons had been not interrogated as witnesses and did not have witness statements. The judge also said that with those individuals civil contracts had been signed, which were announced at Ismayilova’s request.

 

Ismayilova then requested the case document, which stated that she had signed contracts with Radio Azadliq employees Ilgar Rasulov and Rafig Mammadov, but the court said there were no such contracts in the case file. During the examination of the documents, it turned out that the receipts in the case file bore the name of the Azerbaijani representation, not of Ismayilova, who said that the Baku Bureau was different from the Azerbaijani Representation, and could not be regarded as the same.

 

Ismayilova’s lawyers Fakhraddin Mehdiyev and Fariz Namazli filed a motion requesting that Imran Nurmammadov and Elchin Aliyev, the employees of the Baku Tax Department who had compiled the interim act dated 19 January 2015, and Emin Ilham oglu Mammadli and Zaur Zakir oglu Mammadov, the experts who had issued the forensic accounting opinion #2663 dated 13 February 2015 based on that interim act, be questioned as witnesses in court.

 

The lawyers filed a second motion for the conduct of a new forensic accounting examination. The motion was substantiated as follows:

1. The opinion states that it was not possible to identify the purpose of a portion of the payments made by the Representation, but it is not specified in the document which payments they were, or at least the amounts in question.

2. The opinion does not make clear the identities of the individuals – who were not employees of the Representation – allegedly receiving these payments. Nor is it clear how it was determined that the payments had not been made for work or services related to the Representation’s activities.

3. The opinion reads that from 01.01.2008 until 01.12.2014, RFE/RL.Inc company transferred 4.621.900,0 (four million and six hundred and twenty one thousand and nine hundred) AZN funds to the bank accounts of the Representation. The opinion interprets this amount as income and thus a profit tax of 154.063,3 manat is calculated. This is, at best, an indicator of the lack of appropriate professional qualification, and at worst  a clear bias, because the 4,621,900,0 (four million and six hundred and twenty one thousand and nine hundred) manat funds were used to ensure the continuation of the activity of the Baku Bureau of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for 6 (six) years, used to pay the wages and honoraria of the staff and contract workers, office rent and technical maintenance expenses. Accordingly, no income was generated. 4. The opinion then notes that from 01.01.2008 till 01.01.2009 the radio broadcasted through 101.7 FM frequencies without a license, which is presented as the grounds for declaring all its activities as unlawful. However, the Azerbaijani Representation of the RFE/Rl.Inc Company was registered by the Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan Republic on 12 April 2004 and has not been de-registered. Moreover, the radio broadcasted on through short- and medium-wave frequencies and over the Internet. 5. As seen from the criminal case materials, Khadija Ismayilova was not involved in obtaining a license for the radio or extending its validity. This was undertaken by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is based in Washington, DC, and which oversaw the contracts and correspondence with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies and NTRC. Besides, Ismayilova, as seen from her employment contract with the RFE/RL Corporation, was only involved in production work in the Baku Bureau and was not authorized to handle financial and administrative affairs. However, despite this fact, she was referred to as having administrative powers and responsible for financial affairs as the head of the Baku Bureau in the forensic accounting opinion #2663 dated 13 February 2015. 6. This opinion is based on the interim act dated 19 January 2015 of the experts of the Ministry of Taxes. Apparently, the forensic accounting opinion dated 13 February 2015 is cause for sufficient suspicion, though the evidence on which it is based is unreliable.

 

The next defence motion requested the inclusion in the case file of the letter sent to Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva and Prosecutor General Zakir Garalov by the leadership of Radio Liberty. Commenting on the motion, Khadija Ismayilova said: “It seems that something had to be written about Khadija Ismayilova and so they wrote this. Everything written there is entirely fictitious and without factual basis. Not only was I not the head of the representation, I did not have any relations with them at all. I headed the Baku Bureau, which is not the Azerbaijani representation. One does not need to graduate from the university to understand this simple fact; a 3-year school education is enough for that. I don’t believe that the employees of the Ministry of Taxes are so poorly educated that they cannot understand this. I know that they were forced to write this under direction. We are here trying to prove that yogurt is white. Unfortunately, the court will not stop repeating the prosecutor’s opinions. I think that the verdict will also be a repetition of the indictment bill. In fact, we don’t want to prove anything to the court. We just want to clarify two issues for ourselves: first, whether the court provided a reasonable opportunity for investigation, and, secondly, the extent to of the involvement of the whole government, including the Ministry of Taxes and Prosecutor’s Office, in this bias. As for the motion regarding those, who compiled that act, I just want to look them in the face”. 

 

Then lawyer Fariz Namazli filed a motion saying that the on-site tax inspections conducted in the office of Radio Azadliq were suspended until August 14, and on August 15 the inspection period was extended until September 30. He wanted that decision to be included in the evidence list.

  

Khadija Ismayilova said that 4 of the 5 charges brought against her were related to Radio Azadliq and though she was not responsible for financial affairs, experts had issued opinions about alleged violations. Expecting the prosecutor to protest the motion, Khadija Ismayilova said she wanted to read the text of the letter written by the central leadership of Radio Liberty: “For 8 months, the work of the Azerbaijani representation of Radio Liberty has been paralyzed by the interference of the Prosecutor General’s Office and Ministry of Taxes of Azerbaijan Republic, which we consider illegal. Before the tax inspections in the Azerbaijani representation of Radio Liberty were concluded, a criminal case against our former colleague Khadija Ismayilova was separated from this criminal case and sent to court. It became known that the investigating authority, as if to underpin the incitement-to-suicide charge filed against Khadija Ismayilova in order to arrest her, brought the charges of misappropriation of another’s property through abuse of service powers, illegal entrepreneurship and tax evasion, which are related to her activity in Radio Liberty. Since the latter charges are directly related to Radio Liberty and its activities, we feel obliged to comment on them. We view the charges filed against Khadija Ismayilova due to her activity in the radio station as charges against our organisation and we do not accept them. As seen from the statute of the Azerbaijan representation of RFERL Inc. and contracts signed with the heads of Baku Bureau of Radio Azadliq, neither Khadija Ismayilova, nor her predecessors or successors had financial responsibility or obligation or authority to submit financial or other reports to tax authorities. According to another charge filed against Khadija Ismayilova, she arranged that some individuals, who cooperated with the radio based on service contracts, be registered to pay simplified tax instead of income tax, and wasted and misappropriated the 10 percent difference between the simplified tax and income tax, i.e. 17 992 60 manat, thus committing the crime specified in Article 179.3.2 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan Republic. Even if the investigation was telling the truth, charging someone with misappropriation of property for this action is illogical; here one could talk about only tax evasion. It seems that such an outcome did not fit in with the plans of the investigating authorities and they charged Khadija Ismayilova under Article 179.3.2, which stipulates a jail sentence for a period of up to 12 years”.

 

The judge interrupted Khadija Ismayilova saying that the letter had been sent to her and when she received it she would read it herself. Khadija Ismayilova requested that the letter be included in the case file as an addendum to her testimony, but the judge denied her motion.

  

The prosecutor requested that the motions be rejected as unfounded. He did not object to the questioning of the expert who had compiled the interim act. Commenting on the letter sent by the central bureau leadership of Radio Liberty, the prosecutor said that the letter emerged because of the denial of the defence motion requesting that a representative of the radio be invited to the trial. He said that the criminal case materials did not need the recommendations made in the letter and requested the court to reject the letter.

 

Despite Khadija Ismayilova’s insistence, the court once again refused to add the letter to the case file. The judge said that the letter must be received via mail, registered in the clerical office and presented to the judge with the court chairman’s instructions. She said that the letter would be added to the case file when it was received by the court.

 

Then, the panel of judges broke for a deliberation to discuss the motions. Only the motion regarding the questioning of the experts that had compiled the interim act was partially granted by the court, and two of the four experts, Baku Taxes Department employees Elchin Aliyev and Imran Nurmammadov were summoned for questioning as witnesses.

 

This was followed by a 40-minute break in the hearing.

 

After the break, the State Tax Inspector of Baku Taxes Department, Imran Nurmammadov, was questioned as a witness, but he could not finish his testimony, as the working hours of the court were over.

 

The next hearing was set for 20 August, 11.00am.

 

Protest held in support of Khadija Ismayilova 

 

On 19 August, the next hearing was held on journalist Khadija Ismayilova’s case in Baku Court of Grave Crimes. As in previous hearings, no one with the exception of a few embassy representatives was given access to the hearing. A group of journalists held a protest in front of the court building demanding Khadija’s release. The protesters held balloons of different colours and posters reading “Freedom to Khadija!”

 

The protesters were demanding and end to the government crackdown on civil society and the release the jailed and detained journalists, human rights defenders and political prisoners. “We’ll continue our struggle with peaceful methods,” said the protesters. The journalists chanted “Free Khadija!” during the protest.

 

Summary: Hearing 11 (21 August 2015)

 

  • Prosecutor requested a 9-year prison sentence for Khadija Ismayilova.

 

Khadija Ismayilova’s trial continued in Baku Court of Grave Crimes on 21 August. The presiding judge was Ramella Allahverdiyeva.

 

 

Speech by public prosecutor, Ramazan Hadiyev

 

“Khadija Ismayilova has abused her powers as the head of Baku Bureau of Radio Liberty, has evaded payment of the taxes specified in Article 101 of Tax Code, and by signing service contracts with employees has enabled them to underpay their taxes. However, Khadija Ismayilova did not plead guilty to any of the charges. During the course of the trial, Aynur Imranova said that she has known Khadija Ismayilova since 2003. She had applied to Baku Bureau of Radio Liberty for employment, but was not successful. Later, in 2011, she told Khadija Ismayilova that she wanted to work at Radio Liberty, but Khadija Ismayilova said she did not have the relevant authority on this issue. By the way, I should note that Khadija Ismayilova was indeed not entitled to hire employees in 2011. After May 2014, Imranova did not meet with Khadija Ismayilova as their relationship grew cold. She always sought advice from Khadija Ismayilova, as she was a world-renowned investigative journalist. She was the guest on the After Work radio programme several times, but apart from that, she did not cooperate with the Radio or publish her work there, and did not sign an employment or a service contract with the radio. In contrast to her court testimony, in her investigation statement Aynur Imranova stated that she had applied to Khadija Ismayilova, because the latter was the head of Baku Bureau of Radio Liberty. Khadija Ismayilova did not agree to give her full time employment and suggested that she work under a service contract, but Imranova did not accept this proposal. I call the court’s attention to the fact that Aynur Imranova has a higher education and knows her rights. Thus is it possible to deceive her and compel her to write something? Absolutely not. Judging from this fact, it is possible to say that in her testimony Aynur Imranova deliberately sought to help Khadija Ismayilova to evade responsibility. As that part of her testimony does not reflect the objective reality, her investigation statement should be accepted as evidence instead of what she said in her court testimony.

 

Testifying as a witness during the trial, Babek Bakirov said that he started working at the Baku Bureau of Radio Liberty in September 1997, knew Khadija Ismayilova as an influential journalist, and was appointed as the head of the Baku Bureau in 2008, a role he held until 2010. He noted that for those who worked at the radio based on an employment contract, the radio paid taxes at a 14% rate, while those who worked under a service contract paid taxes at a 4 percent rate, on an individual basis. Esmira Javadova, who testified as a witness during the trial, said that in 2009 she met with Khadija Ismayilova, presented her articles and signed a service contract with her. Her monthly income was 500-600 manat initially, later rising to about 1400 manat. She paid  simplified tax, and paid 4 percent of her income in taxes. She enjoyed all relevant employment conditions at RL. My purpose in outlining this is to point out that if Esmira Javadova had signed an employment contract she would pay taxes at the 14 percent rate. In her investigation statement, Esmira Javadova noted that Khadija Ismayilova had recommended that she sign a service contract. This proves that Khadija Ismayilova deliberately created conditions for tax evasion. Javadova said in her testimony that she was forcibly summoned to give a statement at 19.00 on a non-working day and gave her statement under duress. However, the interrogation document shows that Esmira Javadova was interrogated not on Saturday or Sunday, but on 20 October, which was a working day. She changed her testimony after seeing Khadija Ismayilova in the trial. She did not make any complaint to the prosecution authorities with regard to the circumstances of duress. Therefore, I believe that her investigation statement should be accepted as evidence.

 

Chingiz Sultansoy, who testified in this trial, also noted that he had signed a service contract. He stated that as his job involved editing texts, which required him to be present in the editorial office. Under these circumstances, the reason that a service contract was signed is clear to everyone. The purpose was to help the radio avoid paying the higher taxes. During the search and seizure, 12 employment record books, stamp and seal were taken from Radio Azadliq’s office. If Baku Bureau was not an employer, as Khadija Ismayilova said, then why were these there? From the Interim Act and other documents it once again becomes clear that although there were 12-14 full-time employees, there were 30 computers in the editorial office. Service contracts were signed with employees. During the last year under Khadija Ismayilova’s leadership, Radio Azadliq operated without a license.

 

While testifying in court, victim Tural Mustafayev tried to defend Khadija Ismayilova by all means, saying “I don’t know” and “I wanted this” in response to my questions. He said that he had slandered her, but he forgot one thing. Notably, he appealed to law enforcement agencies several times stating incontrovertible things that no one else knew. His investigation statement was also confirmed by his ex-wife Shafa Mustafayeva. Tural Mustafayev’s family members, as well as the results of the forensic examination, show that he is sane and physically and psychologically healthy. Khadija Ismayilova forced Tural Mustafayev to become financially dependent on her. Later, Tural Mustafayev repeatedly begged her for forgiveness in order to restore his previous [financial] situation, but Khadija Ismayilova did not forgive him, thus bringing him to the brink of suicide. The public threat entailed by the offence stipulated in Article 125 of the Criminal Code is that it drives a person to death, and is an inhuman deed. Khadija Ismayilova’s offence, as specified in articles 179.3.2, 192.2.2, 213.1, 308.2, 125 of Criminal Code, has been fully proven. Khadija Ismayilova must be convicted in order to rectify the situation and ensure her rehabilitation. She must be sentenced to 8 years in jail under article 179.3.2 of Criminal Code, to 4 years under article 192.2.2, to 5 years under article 125, to 2 years under article 213.1 and to 2 years under article 308.2. Thus Khadija Ismayilova must be sentenced to 9 years in jail and incur a 3-year ban on holding a position in a state or municipal body. Khadija Ismayilova must serve her sentence in a prison of common regime and pay 364 manat in judicial costs”.

 

Next, the Tural Mustafayev’s representative Safar Huseynov gave a speech. He said that he agreed with what the public prosecutor had said.

 

The defence lawyers asked for time to prepare their speeches.

 

The next hearing was set for 26 August, at 11.00am.

 

Lawyers request acquittal for Khadija Ismayilova 

 

Summary: Hearing 12 (26 August 2015)

 

  • The defence filed a motion for a new trial, which was rejected by the court;

  • Speeches by the defence lawyers stated that the charges against Khadija Ismayilova had not been proved and that she must therefore be acquitted.

 

On August 26, Khadija Ismayilova’s trial continued in Baku Court of Grave Crimes. Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva presided over the hearing. Only three embassy representatives and pro-government media representatives were granted access to the courtroom.

 

Defence motion

 

The defence filed a motion for a new trial on the ground that “the prosecutor requested a sentence for [Khadija Ismayilova] referring to documents that were not present among the case materials”. Commenting on the motion, the prosecutor said that the defendant and the defence had already posed their questions and had received responses, and requested that the motion be denied. The court agreed to consider the defendant’s testimonies in the deliberation room. The motion was denied,  and the court invited the defence lawyers to give their speeches.

 

Closing speeches of lawyers

 

“Article 125 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan Republic defines the crime of incitement to suicide as follows: Driving a person, who has material, service or other dependence on the culprit, to suicide or to attempted suicide by threats, cruel treatment or regular humiliation of his dignity”.

 

First of all, Khadija Ismayilova did not play an instigating role in the suicide attempt by Mustafayev Tural Bulut oglu.

 

The last meeting between Khadija Ismayilova and Tural Mustafayev took place on 9 March 2014, i.e. more than six months before the suicide attempt. They did not communicated after that. How can a person drive another person to suicide without communicating with him?

 

Khadija Ismayilova became acquainted with Tural Mustafayev in 2013. They both worked at the Baku Bureau of Radio Liberty. But neither was subordinate to or dependent upon the other, financially or otherwise.

 

Furthermore, the “regular” aspect is also absent in this case. During a confrontation with Khadija Ismayilova at the investigative agency, Tural Mustafayev admitted that for more than six months he had repeatedly tried to meet with Khadija Ismayilova and had sent numerous text messages with this intention, however Ismayilova had not responded to any of his messages and no meeting took place.

 

There is no specific or objective evidence in the criminal case materials regarding Khadija Ismayilova’s alleged intimidation of Tural Mustafayev.

 

The opinion # T 221/2014 dated 28 November 2014 of the forensic medical examination conducted within this case shows that based on the referral by Goychay Central Regional Hospital dated 27 October 2014, Tural Mustafayev was admitted to Republican Psychiatric Hospital #1 for inpatient treatment on the same day, diagnosed with “affective personality disorder and fits of depression”. Examination and treatment revealed that Mustafayev “suffers from depressive personality disorder involving suicidal attempts, and during anamnesis he noted that he has suffered from mental disorders in the past 1-2 years, outpatient treatments have been ineffective and during this period he committed 3 suicide attempts”. In a video message that Tural Mustafayev posted on Youtube on 03 May 2015, he notes that he had attempted suicide and that during the investigation of this incident by the Baku City Prosecutor’s Office, he was forced by the first deputy prosecutor, Azer Asgarov and investigator Vagif Suleymanov to provide a written statement declaring that he had been driven to suicide by Khadija Ismayilova.

 

While being questioned in court, Mustafayev said that his suicide attempt had nothing to do with Khadija Ismayilova, and that it was related to his ex-fiancée Rahimova Rovshane Vagif gizi, as their relationship was tense and his mental state was unstable. He stated that he had slandered Khadija Ismayilova. Witness Rahimova Rovshana Vagif gizi, who also testified at the trial regarding this charge, told the court that Tural Mustafayev’s suicide attempt had nothing to do with Khadija Ismayilova, Tural Mustafayev suffered from the severe form of psychopathy and was physically violent towards her on multiple occasions, which she reported to the Interior Ministry’s 102 hotline on 27 July and 16 October 2014. Following these calls, she was taken to the police office together with Tural Mustafayev where statements were taken from them. In September 2014 she accompanied Tural Mustafayev to see the Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Azerbaijan Medical University, Araz Manuchohr (located at Caspian Plaza, 44 Jafar Jabbarli Street, Yasamal District, Baku). Araz Manuchohr told Tural Mustafayev that he suffered from a severe form of psychopathy.

Witness Imranova Aynura Imran gizi gave a similar testimony, saying that Tural Mustafayev suffered from chronic alcoholism, became aggressive after work, and was unable to control himself.

 

Mustafayev Bulut Bahadir oglu, Mustafayeva Nazakat Hasan gizi and Mustafayeva Shafa Shahin gizi, all of whom testified as witnesses, said that were unacquainted with Khadija Ismayilova, and that Tural Mustayafev’s suicide attempt was related to his relationship with his fiancée, Rovshana Rahimova.

 

Witness Abdullayev Javid Ilgar oglu did not confirm his investigation statement, saying that it had been given under duress. He told the court that he had no knowledge of any link between Tural Mustafayev’s suicide attempt and Khadija Ismayilova.

 

Imranova Aynura Imran gizi also said that she had faced pressure while providing her investigation statement, and had been offered well-paid job, an apartment, etc. in return for a statement incriminating Khadija Ismayilova. In his speech, the public prosecutor referred to the statement contained in the indictment rather than any factual evidence proving Ismayilova’s guilt.  Khadija Ismayilova must be acquitted of this charge,” said the lawyer.

 

Fariz Namazli stated that the Article 179.3.2 charge against Khadija Ismayilova is unfounded and illegal. “According to this charge, Khadija Ismayilova has arranged that several people with whom the radio had signed service contracts, be registered as payers of simplified tax instead of income tax, thereby misappropriating the 10% difference between the income tax and simplified tax, i.e. 17992,60 AZN.

 

First of all, Khadija Ismayilova has not signed contracts with the persons listed in the indictment, namely Hamidov Shamsaddin Rauf oglu, Babayeva Gulnara Rafig gizi, Javadova Esmira Turab gizi, Mammadov Mustajab Mutallim oglu, Nasibova Malahat Ibrahim gizi, Sadigova Gular Miryahya gizi, Hasanov Samir Mammadali oglu, Zeynalov Eldar Tahir oglu, Nasibov Ilgar Elbay oglu, Mammadli Rafig Humbat oglu and “Fargli Dushunja” (Different Opinion) newspaper founder and chief editor Namazov Shahvalad Abutalib oglu, and there is no evidence in the case file proving that she did.

 

It is evident from the contracts – presented by the defence but not accepted or examined by the court, constituting a gross violation of the right to a fair trial – that the contract with Javadova Esmira Turab gizi was signed by Elizabeth Portale, an employee of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Corporation. The contract with Namazov Shahvalad Abutalib oglu was signed by the official representative of the Representation, Yahya Mirzayev.

 

The position of the official representative of the Representation was held by Anne Eveling until 2005, and by Yahya Mirzayev since 2005 .

 

Generally speaking, if an individual entrepreneur builds a business relationship based on a service contract instead of a labour contract, this does not contravene the existing legislation, and there is no legal provision prohibiting this practice. It is well known that, the subject of both Article 179.3.2 and the Article 308.2 is an official. But Khadija Ismayilova was not in charge of finances, and therefore was not an ‘official’. While serving as the head of Baku Bureau of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, she was not responsible for finances. Her responsibility was  limited to coordinating the activities of the bureau based on the instructions of the radio leadership. Thus she was involved exclusively in production work. In other words, she was not entrusted with any property-related or financial obligations. The Azerbaijani Representation of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was officially called the Representation of the RFE/RL Inc. Company in Azerbaijan Republic. The Statute of the Representation was registered by the Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan Republic on 12 April 2004. According to the Statute, the Representation was established by the RFE/RL Inc. Company, founded and acting in accordance with the legislation of the Delaware State of the USA, which assumes full liability for the Representation’s obligations.

 

According to the Statute, “The Representation is not a legal entity. It only advocates for and defends of the Company’s interests in the Republic of Azerbaijan in a manner, which is not contrary to Azerbaijan’s effective laws and the present statute…”  The Representation is managed by the head appointed by the Company. The duties, functions and powers of the head of the Representation are determined in the power-of-attorney granted by the Company.

 

The Representation of RFE/RL Inc. Company in the Republic of Azerbaijan is not the employer and it manifests itself on the labor contracts signed with employees and the Amendments made to these contracts at different times. As such, the labor relations between the employer and employee are regulated by the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Corporation. Therefore neither the head of the Baku Bureau nor the head of the the Azerbaijani Service can be considered financially responsible persons. Although the prosecution accuses Khadija Ismayilova of signing service contracts with Hamidov Shamsaddin Rauf oglu, Babayeva Gulnara Rafig gizi, Javadova Esmira Turab gizi, Mammadov Mustajab Mutallim oglu, Nasibova Malahat Ibrahim gizi, Sadigova Gular Miryahya gizi, Hasanov Samir Mammadali oglu, Zeynalov Eldar Tahir oglu, Nasibov Ilgar Elbay oglu, Mammadli Rafig Humbat oglu and “Fargli Dushunja” (Different Opinion) newspaper founder and chief editor Namazov Shahvalad Abutalib oglu, they have not presented contracts signed with these persons as evidence for this charge. The originals of these contracts were seized by the investigating agency during the search of the radio’s office. These contracts were later presented to the inspection commission together with the documents seized from the office and were examined. But they were not later included in the case file, because they had not been signed by Khadija Ismayilova. Therefore the prosecution did not include these contracts in the case file, and presented an inaccurate and unsubstantiated picture.,” Fariz Namazli noted in his speech.

 

This Article of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan Republic concerns illegal entrepreneurship, which involves generating a large amount of income. This charge was filed against my client, because she has allegedly:

 

  1. continued the bureau’s radio broadcasting activities from July through December 2008 although the license granted to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty expired on 01 January 2008 and was not extended; hired various employees; and arranged payment of money to herself and those persons under the pretext of salaries or honoraria,  thereby generating a significant income in the amount of 256,400 (two hundred and fifty six thousand four hundred) manat and 54 (fifty four) gapik, through illegal entrepreneurship; and

 

  1. during the period of her employment with the said bureau based on an illegal civil contract as of 01 October 2010, [she] engaged in illegal entrepreneurship by acting without accreditation despite being obliged to obtain accreditation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Republic in accordance with Articles 50 and 53 of the Law on Mass Media of 07 December 1999 and the presidential decree of 08 February 2000 regarding the application of this law; and received an income of 79,480 (seventy nine thousand and four hundred and eighty) manat under the pretext of a salary and honoraria, thereby making a total income of 335, 880 (three hundred and thirty five thousand and eighty hundred and eighty) manat 54 (fifty four) gapik between 01 July 2008 and 01 December 2014.

 

First of all, we should note that RFE/RL Inc. Company is a non-commercial company and that this company is funded by the US Congress. It has never in the history of its operations engaged in entrepreneurial activities.. As indicated in the information published on the radio’s website, “Radio Liberty is a non-commercial organization financed by the US Congress”. Entrepreneurship entails completely different notions and its characteristics have been described in various legislative acts.  The broader definition of entrepreneurship is given in the following legal regulations:

 

According to Article 1 of the Law on Entrepreneurial Activity, entrepreneurial activity is constituted by the independently performed activities of a person whose the main objective is the extraction of profit (concerning individual entrepreneurs – the income) from the use of property, production and/or sales of goods, performance of works or rendering of services. As for the accusation related to the radio’s functioning without a license, Radio Azadliq was broadcasted over 101.7 FM frequency based on the special permit (license) # TR N 052 dated 07 September 2007 issued by the National Television and Radio Council (hereafter NTRC) of Azerbaijan Republic.

 

Radio Azadliq was granted a one-year special permit (license) for radio broadcasting by the NTRC’s decision dated 7 September 2007 of. 

 

The permit in question (license) expired on 7 September 2008. According to the NTRC’s decision dated 30 December 2008, the FM frequency allocated to Radio Azadliq was revoked as of 01 January 2009.[1] From that date, Radio Azadliq ceased broadcasting over the FM frequency. It is unclear why the indictment bill indicated that the special permit (license) expired on 01 January 2008. As stated in Article 50 of the Law on Mass Media, a journalist’s accreditation is not a prerequisite for his work, but a right which accords him additional status and opportunities.

 

On the other hand, Khadija was not a foreign journalist in 2010-2014, but simply a local freelance journalist cooperating with local and foreign media. In this case, it is inaccurate to treat her as a foreign journalist and to claim that she needed to be accredited with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

Even if we assume that Khadija Ismayilova failed to obtain accredited as an employee of a foreign media entity, the responsibility incurred under the Law on Mass Media would be limited to the inability to enjoy the rights of a journalist. That is, the legislation does not even stipulate administrative or civil liability – let alone criminal responsibility – for the failure to gain accreditation.

 

a) regarding the charge brought under Article 213.1 of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijani Republic

 

According to this charge, Khadija Ismayilova, as the Baku-based bureau head of the Azerbaijani Representation of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, engaged in activities inconsistent with the main activity and regulations of the organisation that she represented from 01 July 2008 to 01 October 2010; performed payments non-attributable to a non-resident with indefinite purposes, thus evading tax payments of a large amount, equalling 45,145 (forty five thousand and one hundred and forty five) manat 63 (sixty three) gapik from the derived income of 1,354,368 (one million and three hundred and fifty four thousand and three hundred and sixty eight) manat payable to the state budget under Articles 83.9, 103, 105 of the Tax Code of Azerbaijan Republic and Decision #55 of 01 March 2001 and #42 of 04 April 2003 of the Cabinet of Minister of Azerbaijan Republic.

 

First of all, the statement “engaged in activities inconsistent with the main activity and regulations of the organization” is unclear and vague. As stated above, the Azerbaijani Representation of the Radio Liberty is a non-commercial organisation, whose goal is not entrepreneurial activity, but to support democratic values and institutions by spreading news and ideas.

 

On the other hand, the Azerbaijani Representation of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – RFE/RL Inc. Company has an exemplary record in terms of payment of taxes and compulsory social security contributions. According to the reports compiled during the tax inspections carried out in 2009, 2010 and 2012, no violation of law was found. The same is true for the inspections conducted by the State Labour Inspectorate. The tax obligations of the employees, working on the basis of labour and civil contracts, were performed in accordance with the requirements of Azerbaijani legislation.

Finally, as a non-commercial organisation the Representation of the RFE/RL Inc. Company in the Republic of Azerbaijan, was not liable for profit tax.

 

In general, the fact that the amount of 1,354,368 (one million and three hundred and fifty four thousand and three hundred and sixty eight) manat transferred to its account from 01 July 2008 to 01 October 2010 are presented as income demonstrates clear prejudice [on the part of the court], because this amount does not constitute income, but rather the minimum operational expenses (office rent, employees’ salaries, honoraria for service contracts, maintenance, and material and technical costs, etc.).

 

Moreover, the tax evasion charge cannot be filed against Khadija Ismayilova as the head of the Baku bureau, because the Baku bureau head did not have administrative and financial powers, nor bear the responsibility for paying taxes and social security contributions. The responsibility for tax evasion can be imposed on the persons who pay the company’s taxes and submit tax and other reports. In the present case, during her tenure as the head of Baku bureau of Radio Liberty, Khadija Ismayilova was not in charge of payment of taxes and social security contributions or submitting reports. These were not included in her duties. Khadija Ismayilova only acted as a coordinator between the Baku Bureau and the Prague office, which does not entail financial or administrative responsibilities. Therefore, the bringing of the tax evasion charge against Khadija Ismayilova is absolutely illegal. The charge filed under Article 308.2 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan Republic is also unclear, indefinite and raises significant questions, in contravention of the requirement that the charge be precise and unambiguous.

 

First of all, as noted, Khadija Ismayilova is not and has never been an official. She did not possess or exercise administrative or economic functions while she was the head of Baku bureau.

 

Secondly, even if we assume that my client did serve as an official, it is completely illegal to present her with the indicia of the offence referred to in Article 308.2 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan Republic.

 

At minimum, this is because the serious consequences of Khadija Ismayilova’s abuse of official powers, or the possible impact on the results of an election (referendum) have not been demonstrated.

Given the above, the charges brought against Khadija Ismayilova are baseless and she must be acquitted,” the lawyer said, concluding his speech.

 

The other defence lawyer, Fakhraddin Mehdiyev declared the indictment to be trumped-up, illegal and unfounded. “The charges are based on assumptions, are prejudiced and are related to Khadija Ismayilova’s [investigative journalism]. The public prosecutor did not refer to any piece of legislation in his speech, and the current proceedings are an embarrassing indictment of the right to presumption of innocence. The prosecutor recited a fairy tale without referring to facts. Khadija Ismayilova cannot be subject to the filed charges and must therefore be acquitted,” Mehdiyev said.

 

Khadija Ismayilova then requested a week to prepare the closing speech, but the judge set the next hearing for August 31, 14.00.

 

Supreme Court denies Khadija Ismayilova’s cassation appeal

 

Summary: Hearing 2 (26 August 2015)

 

  • The Supreme Court denied the cassation appeal filed by Khadija Ismayilova’s lawyer Yalchin Imanov against the Appeal Court’s decision on the preliminary hearing of the private lawsuit brought by Elman Hasanov (Bayragdar).

 

On 26 August, the Supreme Court heard the case of journalist Khadija Ismayilova. The hearing was presided over by Judge Ali Rustamov.

 

The cassation appeal filed by lawyer Yalchin Imanov

 

The Supreme Court heard the cassation appeal filed by Khadija Ismayilova’s lawyer against the preliminary hearing decision dated 28 April 2015, regarding the private lawsuit filed by Elman Hasanov (Bayragdar). The cassation appeal had been filed following the Appeal Court’s denial of the motion submitted by lawyers Fariz Namazli and Yalchin Imanov to conduct the court session through judicial investigation. The cassation appeal was based on the fact that in their motion, the lawyers noted the need to summon and question an employee of the Ministry of National Security (MNS).  The lawyers wanted to clarify a number of issues in the private lawsuit brought by Elman Hasanov (Turkoglu) in the Court of Appeal. It was noted that the MNS employee needed to testify as he had alleged that Khadija Ismayilova had published the letters, although Khadija Ismayilova did not publish any letter in 2011. Thus both the defendant and the private prosecutor had to be questioned, and the evidence had to be re-examined. The cassation appeal also noted that “within one day MNS sent a request to the Investigation Department of the Prosecutor’s Office, to which the latter responded on the same day, suggesting that the Prosecutor’s Office was informed in advance. Therefore, in order to ensure an objective and comprehensive investigation of the case, the MNS employee must be questioned during the consideration of the case in the Court of Appeal. Therefore, the court session must be conducted through judicial investigation”.

 

The court collegium denied the cassation appeal.

 

Elman Hasanov (Turkoglu) had requested that Khadija Ismayilova be brought to criminal responsibility for Libel under the Criminal Code, claiming invasion of his privacy and slandered in a post published by the journalist on her Facebook page. Binagady District Court ruled that the journalist must pay 2500 manat in fines. The court’s decision has been appealed. 

 

Khadija Ismayilova was arrested on 5 December 2014. She was initially charged with incitement to suicide. In February, new charges of misappropriation, tax evasion, abuse of office and illegal entrepreneurship were brought against her.

 

Khadija Ismayilova delivers her closing speech

 

Summary: Final hearing (31 August 2015)

 

  • Khadija Ismayilova delivered her closing statement;

  • Court broke for deliberation to announce the verdict.

 

On August 31, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes held a hearing on the case of journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva presided over the hearing.

 

Today’s hearing was no different from previous ones in terms of its semi-closed format. Similarly, only APA, Virtualaz.org and Telegraph reporters were allowed into the courtroom, along with representatives of the US and German Embassies and Ismayilova’s family members. The representatives of UK and French embassies and European Union were denied access, along with numerous journalists and members of the public. There were a number of police officers and non-uniformed employees of the Ministry of National Security (MNS) present in the vicinity of the court.

 

The courtroom seats were once again occupied by strangers, non-uniformed court officers and MNS employees.

 

Khadija Ismayilova’s closing speech

 

At today’s hearing, Khadija Ismayilova delivered her closing speech:

 

“Dear hearing participants, dear court, and also those of you who have become observers of this hearing under duress and have filled the seats to prevent the entry of the public interested in the hearing! 

 

I do not know what have concluded from this express hearing, but my conclusion is that the repression machine is about to collapse. Of course, it can be considered as the effect of the decline in the oil market, but there are also other reasons. One of the reasons is us!

 

The ability of the Azerbaijani law enforcement system to concoct a crime when there is none is well known to many people. But by skilfully exposing the disgraceful facts of Azerbaijan’s judicial process for years, honest citizens, journalists (I surely do not mean those who instead of reporting on this hearing serve as a clerk for the prosecutor’s office) and human rights defenders of this country have forced the repression machine to conceal their actions in ever more disgraceful ways. Like the liars who are forced to tell more lies when their lies are exposed, the employees of the prosecutor’s office and the court were forced to resort to further falsifications and legal violations when their illegal actions were revealed. 

 

The first thing revealed by these proceedings was the fact that the employees of prosecutor’s office and tax authorities have failed to justify their pay packets and have failed to perform a proper smear campaign in return for the illegal advantages that they enjoy.

 

Yes, even smearing requires skill. Even the statements that they forced people to sign by breaking their will or taking advantage of their illiteracy, psychological state and fear did not provide sufficient grounds for the criminal case opened against me, and moreover, it was revealed during the court proceedings that each of those statements had been extracted through illegal methods; either under duress, or by falsification through having them signed without being read – and sometimes even by falsifying the signatures to the statements. One of the witnesses was even offered bribe. How miserable you are! The case fabricated against me using the cheapest versions of falsification was its own exposure. Therefore, I am not going to describe these matters at length in addition to what my lawyers have already said.

 

Many facts were revealed when the tax inspectors responded to the questions:

1.             They said they had not seen a single document with my signature.

2.             They noted that they had examined only the documents given to them by the prosecutor’s office. 

3.             They said that they had not examined the documents in the computer of Yahya Mirzayev, who was in charge of the management of the representative office based on a power of attorney, or viewed any document in electronic media.

4.             They said that they had prepared the Interim Act without applying to the official representative of the representative office to obtain the documents:

5.             They also said that they had presumed the violations alleged in the Interim Act based not on the documents that were available, but rather on those unavailable. 

 

In order to reaffirm for myself how desperate the prosecutor’s office was, I decided to play a game. I gave a deceptive hint to the prosecutors. I told them that my friendship with Tural Mustafayev (yes, my relationship with the victim had no other name or form) began after our discussions on how he should advocate for his rights after being beaten during Jamil Hasanli’s rally in Sabirabad. The prosecutor’s office included that date in the prosecution’s speech in an attempt to show that they had conducted a detailed investigation. It was not very difficult to find that my communication with Tural Mustafayev was limited to the office of the Radio Azadliq. The prosecutor’s office possessed the antenna data of Mustafayev’s phone. These data are in the case file as well and have also been presented to me. For this, they needed to work and examine documents, but the employees of the prosecutor’s office do not have time to work. After all, they need time to spend the money they receive in return for their falsifications and slander. Therefore, the president needs to check the effectiveness of the money spent on the repression machine. They do not justify your trust, Mr. President.

 

As the witness statements were exposed one after another, the prosecutor’s office decided that the case materials, which the prosecutor’s office itself had devised, should not be examined in court, because this would reveal before everyone how they had cheated those who gave them the orders with regard to this case. 

 

The selected statements that they passed to the media were their attempts to report to their masterminds, which again failed. Poor quality falsification forced the court to commit further violations of law, and I am sure that Ms. Ramella Allahverdiyeva and her leadership have already complained to the mastermind, the Presidential Administration about the trouble caused by the poor job of the prosecutor’s office. When I say I am sure, I mean I know.

 

Now I would like to speak to the charges brought against me.

 

These charges have not been selected randomly. It is because I have spoken and written so much about the crimes described in these Articles [of the Criminal Code].

 

I won’t talk much about Article 125. I was not the only person who wrote and spoke about the wave of suicide that swept the country due to poverty, debt, and police violence. If the reason for Tural Mustafayev’s suicide attempt was not his relationship with his fiancée, but unemployment, then as I had said at the previous hearing, Ilham Aliyev must have shared the dock with me [at this point, the presiding judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva interrupted Khadija Ismayilova’s speech, demanded that she spoke on the merits of the charges and issued her a warning]. Mustafayev complained of his failure to find a job with the pro-government media. Surely, as Mustafayev himself has pointed out, all this was nothing more than slander and the MNS (the Ministry of National Security) and Baku City Prosecutor’s Office had been mobilized to force him into slandering. This is the very MNS which planted a camera in my bedroom in 2011 and blackmailed me in 2012. This is the very Baku City Prosecutor’s Office which covered up that crime, which is why I have sued them. 

 

You have probably watched the movie “If not that one, then this one”. You also probably remember the famous “bridesmaid” character. you must also remember the famous character of that movie – the wife of the brother. Assuming the bride and the groom were spending their first night together, she tried peeking through the keyhole. Inside, Server makes Meshedi Ibad withdraw; he is holding a gun. In the meantime, the wife of the brother does not call anyone for help because she is actually seeing what she is imagining but not what is happening in reality. So those plotting against me are acting like the wife of the brother. They are so enthusiastic that they don’t know they are going to fall once the door opens.

 

The Azerbaijani government did its utmost to drive me to suicide, but I proved stronger. They poked their noses in my private life, but they could not break me. They blackmailed me, but I did not grovel. I won’t be broken even if they sentence me to 15, or even to 25 years in jail. They could as well silence me like Elmar Huseynov, Rafig Tagi or Rasim Aliyev. But I was cautious and always had someone beside me. I never stayed alone. There were people dealing with my security. Therefore, there are a lot of witnesses to my relationship with Tural Mustafayev. The prosecutor referred to text messages and Facebook messages, which have not been examined in court – a violation of law. If those messages were to assist the prosecution, why were they not read out or examined in court? Because if they had been examined, they would reveal that Mustafayev had not presented them with these pages [screenshots?]; some of them have been taken out of context and some of them have been concocted. It would also become clear that contrary to the prosecution’s allegations, Tural Mustafayev was not sacked by Meydan TV. He himself presented his resignation letter on February 28, 2014, that is, 12 days before March 9, not after the cessation of our relationship as the prosecution puts it.

 

I used to think about the power of the prosecutor office’s imagination, and struggled to believe that they could have fabricated this story themselves, because the strength of their fantasy was a surprise for me. But one day, when my cellmates were watching a movie starring Izzat Bagirov and Mehriban Khanlarova, I was distracted from the book that I was reading by familiar phrases and storyline. I had read them my own case file. Yes, it was theft. Like a movie, you know.

 

Again, they were not strong enough to think of something new. They stole from a movie. 

Now let’s look at the other charges fabricated by our glorious law-enforcement agencies, who even steal their slanders:

 

Article 213 – tax evasion

It was absurd to bring the tax evasion charge against Khadija Ismayilova, the person who investigated the money stolen from Azerbaijani people by the presidential family and moved offshore, their abuse of state contracts and tax evasion through offshore companies. My students, my colleagues and I were writing about offshore accounts and cases of tax evasion through the companies set up on islands in their own names and in Azerbaijan under the names of others. 

So here it goes – the tax evasion charge has been brought against me. I have paid taxes on every single penny that I earned. But the charge has nothing to do with my tax reporting. They claim that I was responsible for the tax reports of the radio’s Azerbaijani representation, my employer. Moreover, these reports had to be made not according to the law but according to what they wanted them to look like. We spent part of the investigation period and the trial simply reminding the prosecution of the simple and undeniable facts, such as “the Azerbaijani representation is not the same as Baku Bureau”, “I headed the bureau, not the representative office”, “the Radio has never sold anything or made any profit”, “I did not have the financial responsibility”. But they insisted, saying “the yoghurt is black”. They had been given an order and they probably had to make that argument accordingly. But they should at least have some respect for our intellect and not present us with this poor quality falsification.

 

Article 179. Waste and misappropriation

Even our slanderous prosecutor’s office didn’t dare accuse me of misappropriation. They devised an allegation stating that I had wasted the taxes payable to the state budget in favour of third parties, i.e. the radio’s employees. My colleagues and I have written a lot about the cases of embezzlement and misappropriation, about asphalt roads, a kilometre of which cost 60 million manat, about the Flag Square, which cost the state 30 million manat when its estimated cost was 6-7 million manat, about the preparations for Eurovision, and about the construction of Crystal Hall. But unlike the prosecutor’s office, we substantiated our articles with documents and facts, not with speculations and probabilities. Moreover, unlike the charges brought against me, the hero of my stories, Ilham Aliyev [at this point, judge Novruz Karimov demanded that Khadija Ismayilova speak on the merits. Presiding judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva also warned Khadija Ismayilova, but Khadija Ismayilova ignored them and continued her speech) has truly wasted the state budget entrusted to him, and the direct beneficiaries of this waste are his family members – his children.  This is clearly demonstrated by the copies of orders and founding documents of the companies, which I attached to my articles. However, the prosecutor’s office and tax inspectors failed to put forward any document confirming my powers, nor even a single contract or payment order bearing my signature. They could have made falsifications, but maybe they did not dare to after it had been proved that they had falsified Intigam Aliyev’s signature.

 

Article 308. Abuse of office

The prosecutor’s office also failed to prove how I had abused my powers. I am more successful in proving something than glorious prosecutor office employees. For example, I had attached to my article a copy of the document which proved that the order to sign a contract with a company belonging to the president [at this point, presiding judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva interrupted Khadija Ismayilova’s final speech, saying “Khadija Ismayilova, I interrupt your final speech and I am leaving for the deliberation room”. Khadija Ismayilova ignored the judge, and this time Ramella Allahverdiyeva said “Khadija Ismayilova, I warn you”] for exploitation of six gold mines including Chovdar had been given by no one esle but the president (judge Novruz Karimov intervened, demanding that she speak on the merits of the case. After that, presiding judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva once again warned Khadija Ismayilova). I also produced documents proving just how easily the same family acquired state contracts without a tender and how millions were transferred to industrial enterprises on the orders of the head of the family before their privatization for a few pennies.

 

Article 192. Illegal entrepreneurship

This is my favourite charge. Do you know what illegal entrepreneurship is? This is when the president, the prime minister or a member of parliament is engaged in entrepreneurship. My foreign colleagues and I were taken aback when we saw that the president (at this point, judge Novruz Karimov intervened again and reiterated his warning. The presiding judge again warned Khadija Ismayilova and noted that this was the last warning and before they would end her speech and go to the deliberation room. Khadija Ismayilova told the presiding judge that she was speaking to the charges; the judge replied that she was not. The presiding judge said “If you diverge from the charges once more, we’ll interrupt your final speech and leave for the deliberation room”. Khadija Ismayilova said, “I do not diverge from the charges. I am speaking to the charges filed against me”. The presiding judge repeated her previous statement) was personally the founder of companies in Virgin Islands. He was not yet president when setting up this company, but he was an MP and vice-president of SOCAR. Then he became Minister, and then president, but did not relinquish the company. We were surprised when we saw the name of Mehriban Aliyeva in the documents of the companies based in Panama. But what’s the use? The prosecutor’s office did not share our surprise. Where was the prosecutor’s office when my colleagues and I wrote exposed the illegal business of an MP? Why did they fail to react? They told  Transparency International that they had not received an official appeal with regard to the facts contained in those articles. In other words, they turned a blind eye to this. However, according to the law, the fact that it was stated in a newspaper was enough to start criminal proceedings. Let it be so. Let’s believe that you were not aware. Accept what I say in my final speech here as an official appeal. I have so many witnesses that to this appeal. The links of my articles are attached to the texts. So come on, open the criminal case!

 

And finally, my friends are asking me what I think about the jail sentence and the difficulties awaiting me. Frankly, I do not think about it. What’s does it matter if I become one of the 500 prisoners in Prison #4 waiting in a queue for eight WCs, when this country is facing so many troubles? There, I’ll have the opportunity to expose the official claims of unprecedented development and transparency in the penitentiary service as a myth. I am a person who can turn problems into opportunities (Ramella Allahverdiyeva interrupted, saying “Speak on merits”). This is how it has been and how it will be. I’ll build a house out of the stones thrown at me. They ask if it is not difficult. Everything depends on what you are attuned to. Those who are attuned to struggles do not feel difficulties. As Nazim Hikmat once said: “Let those, to whom the tears of family members seem like a burden, not walk the same path with us”.

 

My colleagues and I expose corruption. I won’t be able to do this work while I am in jail. But I am glad that following my arrest, 100 journalists from around the world launched an investigation project. Yes, I am in jail, but the work goes on. Because the work that we do is important. We wrote and we informed the public, despite the arrest and blackmails that we faced in retaliation (the prosecutor stated that Khadija Ismayilova had diverged from the merits). But I am still happy that I have fulfilled my duty. We, the journalists, were able to stand up for our people and our state. Corruption does not only make some people richer, it also deprives many of opportunities, education, and healthcare service, and sometimes of life.     

 

We bear witness to the fact that the people that were mentioned in the International Bank fraud, which we had investigated in 2011, (presiding judge demanded that Khadija Ismayilova speak on merits) were accused of embezzlement on a far larger scale afterwards. The pain and anger that I felt when it was revealed that tender frauds were behind the facade renovation work of the building that burned down in Azadliq Avenue was too great (presiding judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva interrupted, saying that this had nothing to do with the charges. Khadija Ismayilova said she had been arrested for uncovering such facts and the order for her detention had been given due to her investigative work). But we were writing about that fraud. This network should have been stopped on time! But no, because one end of this network reached too high. Corruption led to a tragedy that resulted in the death of 15 people. We had sounded the alarm about the fraudulent businessmen and flammable facade materials on time.

 

Time will not stop when I am in jail. Elections, stealing from the budget (judge Novruz Karimov demanded that Khadija Ismayilova spoke on merits and the presiding judge again warned her), and throwing dust in people’s eyes will continue.

 

I am sure that real journalists and vigilant citizens will continue to expose election fraud. My request to my colleagues and to Radio Azadliq is: Please make sure that the only difference in this year’s “Election Train” programme (the prosecutor demanded that she speak on merits, to which lawyer Fariz Namazli objected. The presiding judge warned Ismayilova, backed by the prosecutor, who said that Khadija Ismayilova was speaking beyond the charges. Lawyer Fariz Namazli again objected) is the presenter’s voice, and that the team continues to expose corruption with the same enthusiasm as before.

 

Let’s not forget that this is our country, and let’s not sacrifice it to bandits with our silence (the court panel stood up and announced deliberations, and hurried to the deliberation room without announcing the date of the next hearing. Khadija Ismayilova continued her closing speech). I am in good company here. How happy I am if I share the same fate as Leyla Yunus, Intigam Aliyev, Anar Mammadli, Ilgar Mammadov, Tofig Yagublu, Rashadat Akhundov, Ilkin Rustemzades and believers, human rights defenders and journalists serving jail sentences for the sake of their beliefs and principles. Do not worry about me.   

 

In conclusion, I would like to express thanks to:

·      My colleagues, who did not let our work remain unfinished;

·      Activists protesting against repression;

·      International human rights bodies for their continuous support and attention;

·      Embassy representatives observing this hearing. It is true that the unlawfulness that they see in courtrooms does not prevent their ambassadors from welcoming projects soaked with corruption or their countries’ leaders from shaking the hands of a dictator. But anyway, I thank them. At least, for not giving lame excuses ignorance.

·      I thank my lawyers for their selfless assistance to me, and to the helpless people who turned to me for help in prison during these months. Thanks to my lawyers, a couple of mothers have been reunited with their children. They tasted freedom again. There are so many silent victims of injustice in this country here. We are so happy if we can help some of them.

 

And lastly, Ms. Ramella Allahverdiyeva, I wish you good vacation after you announce the verdict. I wish that you could one day spend your vacation without pain of conscience and without silencing your conscience. I hope that the boomerang effect of the evil that you are going to sign does not affect you or your loved ones. However, the law of conservation of energy leaves me with little hope.

 

Khadija Ismayilova sentenced to 7.5 years in jail

 

Summary: Verdict hearing (1 September 2015)

 

  • Khadija Ismayilova was acquitted of incitement to suicide (filed under Article 125 of Criminal Code), but convicted of the rest of the charges.

 

On 1 September, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes held a final hearing on journalist Khadija Ismayilova’s case. Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva presided over the hearing.

 

The semi-closed hearing was attended by APA, Virtualaz.org and Telegraph reporters, representatives of the US, German and UK embassies and the EU delegation, and members of Khadija Ismayilova’s family. A group of journalists and members of the public were again denied access. A large number of police officers and non-uniformed MNS employees were deployed around the court building.

 

The courtroom seats were filled up by strangers, non-uniformed court officers and MNS employees.

 

The court’s verdict

 

The court acquitted Khadija Ismayilova of the charge filed under Article 125 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan Republic (incitement to suicide) on the grounds that she had not been proven guilty. However, the court found her guilty under Articles 179.3.2 (misappropriation and waste on a large scale), 192.2.2 (illegal entrepreneurship), 213.1 (tax evasion) and 308.2 (abuse of official powers). Ismayilova was sentenced to 7.5 years in jail and given a 3-year ban on holding certain positions or engaging in certain activities.  

 

 

 

[1] http://www.ntrc.gov.az/az/content/news/276.html ; http://www.ntrc.gov.az/az/content/news/135.html