IRFS Statement on the Sentencing of Azadliq newspaper reporter Elchin Ismayilli

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) condemns the authorities of Azerbaijan for yet another politically motivated court verdict against Azadliq newspaper’s regional correspondent Elchin Ismayilli, and demands his immediate release.

The trial and investigation materials have not shown any evidence to support the charges against the journalist incriminated of extortion, abuse of office, and taking a bribe. In contrast, the apparent political motive behind the arrest of the opposition journalist is evidenced by the totally unjustified participation of the country’s leading intelligence agency, the State Security Service of Azerbaijan, in the process of detaining a journalist who is charged with extorting a bribe of 600$ from a state official. Without any evidence of guilt, on September 18, 2017, Shaki District Court sentenced the journalist to an unjustifiably long jail term of 9 years, which in practice is handed down for grave crimes.

“By yet another politically-motivated verdict issued against journalist Elchin Ismayilli, the authorities are sending an indirect message that they intend to keep critically-minded journalists under pressure by all means,” IRFS CEO Emin Huseynov said. “Accusing journalists and human rights defenders of such absurd crimes as tax evasion, abuse of power, and extortion, the authorities are intentionally attempting to discredit them in the eyes of local and international community. Yesterday, the Court of Appeals upheld the original 7-year jail sentence against another journalist, Fikrat Ibishbayli, on similarly discrediting and unproven charges. This trend indicates that, over the past 10 years, the authorities have purposefully used and will continue to use similarly smearing and absurd accusations against journalists to force them to remain silent about the wide-scale corruption and organized crime, behind which Azerbaijan’s highest political leadership stands,” Huseynov summed up.

IRFS calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to release journalists Afgan Mukhtarli, Mehman Huseynov, Seymur Hazi, Aziz Orujov, Nijat Aliyev, Araz Guliyev, Fikrat Ibishbayli, Afgan Sadigov, Elchin Ismayilli, Javid Shiraliyev, Mahbub Zulfugarli, Ziya Asadli and Arshad Ibrahimov, bloggers Rashad Ramazanov and Ilkin Rustemzade, writers Saday Shakarli and Tofig Hasanov, as well as graffiti activists Giyas Ibrahimov and Bayram Mammadov, and put an end to the practice of arresting their critics.

IRFS calls on the member states of the Council of Europe, OSCE, and the European Union to demand that the Azerbaijani authorities comply with the relevant obligations of Azerbaijan and stop repression of their critics.
IRFS further calls on the Western democracies to begin applying individual sanctions against the most rampant violators of human rights and their family members.

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