Summary: Hearing 1 (July 18)
Journalist Khadija Ismayil made a speech at the hearing, seeking decriminalization of the penalty handed to her in accordance with Article 192 (illegal business) of the Criminal Code;
Public prosecutor asked the court to give him time for familiarization with the case, and the hearing was postponed indefinitely.
Baku Grave Crimes Court, chaired by Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva, heard investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil’s appeal to decriminalize the penalty handed to her under Article 192 (illegal business) of the Criminal Code. Khadija Ismayil was arrested on 5 December 2014. She was initially charged under article 125 of the Criminal Code (inciting to suicide). Later, she faced new charges under articles 179 (misappropriation), 192.2 (illegal entrepreneurship), 213.2 (tax evasion) and 308.2 (abuse of authority). On September 1, the court acquitted Khadija Ismayil of the charge filed under Article 125 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan Republic (inciting to suicide). However, the court found Khadija Ismayil 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 authority) and sentenced her to 7.5 years in jail and a 3-year ban from holding some public position or engaging in some public activities. The Court of Appeal upheld this verdict by its decision dated November 25, 2015. On May 25, 2016, the Supreme Court dropped the charges under Articles 179.3.2 (misappropriation of a large amount) and 308.2 (abuse of authority) of the Criminal Code against Khadija Ismayil, but sentenced her to a total of 3.5 years in jail and a 2-year ban from holding certain positions under Articles 192.2.2 (illegal entrepreneurship) and 213.1 (tax evasion) of the Criminal Code. In accordance with the court’s decision, Khadija Ismayil was conditionally released but will spend 5 years on probation. An amendment has taken effect with regard to the disposition of Article 192 of the Criminal Code since June 01, 2016, and the journalist has appealed to the court to decriminalize the penalty given to her in accordance with this Article.
During her courtroom speech, Khadija Ismayil noted that the amendment, which had been made to the Criminal Code and had come into force as of June 1, concretized the disposition of Article 192 (illegal business). If earlier this Article was talking about “operating without state registration,” after the amendment it specifically states that it is referring to registration with tax authorities.
“The charge brought against me under Article 192 of the Criminal Code reads that I have worked for a foreign media outlet without getting accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan. An amendment made to the law has a retrospective effect and should be applied if it alleviates the situation of a citizen. Both this and other charges filed against me were already illegal. You had the chance to not confirm these illegal charges and acquit me, but you did not. I understand that you were ordered otherwise back at the time. But then it changed and the Supreme Court did it. As for Article 192, back then you used a loophole in the law against me. Please apply the retrospective effect of the law,” Khadija Ismayil said.
After that, the presiding judge noted that public prosecutor Ramazan Hadiyev was appointed as the prosecutor of Fuzuli region while the journalist’s case was being heard in Baku Grave Crimes Court.
The public prosecutor, who has taken over the case, asked for time to do some research, by saying that he was not sufficiently familiar with the case. The presiding judge postponed the hearing indefinitely.