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On October 18, Sabail District Court chaired by Judge Azer Tagiyev held a hearing on the civil case concerning Radio Liberty employee, investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil’s 29,030-AZN (20,000 AZN for moral damage and 9,030 AZN for material damage) compensation claim against Baku City Prosecutor’s Office. Khadija Ismayil was seeking 9,030 AZN in material damage and 20,000 AZN in non-pecuniary damage for the period during which she was illegally held in detention on the charge of driving to suicide (Article 125 of Criminal Code) which she has been acquitted of.
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 1 September 2015, the court dropped the initial charge but convicted Khadija Ismayil of the remaining charges and sentenced her to 7.5 years in jail. On 25 May 2016, the Supreme Court cleared Khadija of the misappropriation and abuse-of office charges, but sentenced her to 3.5 years in jail which was converted to a suspended sentence and the journalist was released on 5-year probation. On 8 August 2016, Baku Grave Crimes Court reduced Khadija Ismayil’s suspended sentence from 3.5 years to 2 years and 3 months, as after an amendment to Criminal Code, the amount of her alleged income out of ‘illegal business’ was qualified as ‘significant’ as opposed to ‘large’ prior to the amendment. But the term of probation remained as 5 years.
The hearing was attended by plaintiff Khadija Ismayil’s lawyers Yalchin Imanov and Fariz Namazli, defendant Baku City Prosecutor Office’s representative Gunel Akbarli and Elchin Najafov, the representative of the Ministry of Finance which is a third party in the case.
At the hearing, journalist’s lawyer Yalchin Imanov defended the claim. “Khadija Ismayil was charged by Baku City Prosecutor’s Office under Article 125 of the Criminal Code on 5 December 2014, and Sabail District Court ordered her pre-trial detention. Until 13 February 2015, she was held on remand solely on this charge alone. On February 13, four additional charges (illegal business, tax evasion, abuse of office, and misappropriation) were brought against her as part of a criminal case initiated by the Serious Crimes Investigation Department of Prosecutor General’s Office. Therewith, both criminal cases were combined. On 6 March 2015, Khadija Ismayil’s term of pre-trial detention was extended in connection with the new charges filed against her. In other words, from December 5 to March 6, the journalist was kept in custody only on one charge (Article 125 of Criminal Code). Later, Baku Grave Crimes Court acquitted the journalist of the charge under Article 125. Baku Appeal Court and Supreme Court upheld this acquittal,” the lawyer said.
According to the lawyer, the fact that Khadija Ismayil was acquitted means that she had been illegally held in detention on this charge. “And during her illegal detention, she incurred both material and moral damages. We presented to the court the receipt on the amount paid under the contracts signed with the lawyers (Ed.: lawyer fees), and a tax statement showing Khadija’s earnings issued by the Ministry of Taxes. The tax statement shows that Khadija Ismayil’s income in the years 2011-2014 was 103,000 AZN and she paid 4,121 AZN in taxes. It goes to show that her income was quite good and she was deprived of this income while in illegal detention,” Yalchin Imanov added.
The lawyer also called the court’s attention to other material damage such as the costs incurred for the parcels brought for Khadija Ismayil while in detention and for the taxi services used for travelling to and from Kurdakhani detention centre.
Defendant Baku City Prosecutor Office’s representative Gunel Akbarli asked for the rejection of the claim. She noted that there had been sufficient grounds to charge Khadija Ismayil and order her detained.
Finance Ministry’s representative Elchin Najafov also requested dismissal of the lawsuit.
During his speech, Khadija Ismayil’s other lawyer Fariz Namazli said that both the defendant and the third party asked for the claim to be denied, but presented zero argument to substantiate their request.
“The fact that Khadija Ismayil was illegally detained under Article 125 has been confirmed by a court judgment. We are therefore requesting you to issue a decision ordering the defendant to pay Khadija a compensation of 29,030 AZN,” Namazli told the court.
The court’s decision:
Judge Azer Tagiyev announced that the claim was not granted.