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You Are Here: Home » FLASH NEWS, News » Azerbaijan – Details of human rights defender Ms Khadija Ismail’s arrest and pre-trial detention on unfounded charges

xedice-ismayil-0002On the morning of 5 December 2014, human rights defender and investigative journalist Ms Khadija Ismail was summoned for interrogation in Baku City Prosecutor’s office. When she arrived at the Prosecutor’s office, she was detained and informed that the Prosecutor had issued an order for her arrest on charges of causing a person to attempt suicide (article 125 of Azerbaijan’s Criminal Code). That evening, Sabail District Court ruled to arrest and detain the human rights defender for two months pending trial. The following day, on 6 December 2014, she was transferred to Kurdakhany pre-trial detention centre in the outskirts of Baku. Her lawyer appealed her pre-trial detention, and the appeal hearing is scheduled for 11 December in Baku Appeals Court.

On 5 December 2014, Khadija Ismail’s lawyer had been forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement. However, her criminal case was later commented on by the General Prosecutor’s office. According toauthorities, the human rights defender allegedly drove journalist Mr Tural Mustafaev to attempt to commit suicide by firing him from the radio station in March 2014 and by “putting pressure on him”. According to the General Prosecutor’s office, on 20 October 2014, Tural Mustafaev attempted to take his own life. Hesurvived and later filed a complaint against Khadija Ismail to the General Prosecutor’s office. However, according to the people who knew Tural Mustafaev personally, Khadija Ismail had no connection to his attempted suicide.

On 6 December 2014, the day after Khadija Ismail’s arrest, about fifteen law enforcement officers from the police and the General Prosecutor’s office carried out a search of her home, seizing 58 DVD-disks, amodem and business cards. If found guilty of causing a person to attempt suicide, the human rights defender could face up to seven years of imprisonment.

Khadija Ismail is a prominent journalist and human rights activist in Azerbaijan and is well known for her investigative reports on corruption in Azerbaijan, including the Presidential family’s involvement. Prior to her arrest, Khadija Ismail reported on the situation of political prisoners in Azerbaijan and advocated fortheir release. She has been working for Radio Azadliq (a local service of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty) in Azerbaijan.

Khadija Ismail’s arrest follows a statement by the head of Azerbaijan’s presidential administration, MrRamiz Mehdiyev, on 4 December 2014 where he called the country’s non-governmental groups a “fifth column” and directly accused Khadija Ismail of treason.

Earlier this year, on 18 February 2014, Khadija Ismail was summoned to Azerbaijan’s General Prosecutor’s office as a witness to give a statement in connection with the “disclosure of a state secret” after she published a document on Facebook about the Azerbaijani secret services recruiting an opposition activist as an “informant”. Subsequently, the alleged “informant” filed a civil law suit against Khadija Ismail, accusing her of defamation. On 9 October 2014, the trial of the human rights defender began in Binagadi District Court, Baku. Khadija Ismail stated in court that the document that she published on Facebook did not mention the name of the plaintiff and there is no evidence to the contrary. At the time of writing, the trial has not been concluded.

On 10 June 2014, Binagadi District Court ordered Khadija Ismail to carry out 220 hours of public servicefor allegedly organising an unauthorised protest in Baku. The peaceful demonstration, which had beenheld on 26 January 2013, was dispersed by police who used rubber truncheons to control the crowds. Three protesters were arrested and fifteen others were fined. Khadija Ismail appealed the court ruling but, on 15 August 2014, Baku Appeals Court upheld the previous verdict.

On 5 September 2014, the human rights defender was detained for two hours in Baku airport when travelling from an OSCE conference held in Tbilisi. The border guards searched through her personal belongings and temporarily confiscated her belongings, including money and credit cards. On 5 October 2014, she was detained in Baku airport for five hours as she returned back from Strasbourg, where she had met with Council of Europe officials to discuss the ongoing crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan.On 12 October 2014, Khadija Ismail was prevented from leaving Azerbaijan due to a decision taken by the General Prosecutor’s Office. No reason was given for this travel ban. On 18 November 2014, the human rights defender again attempted to leave the country, to participate in a US Congress Helsinki hearing on corruption in OSCE countries, but she was stopped in the airport, once again without any clear explanations.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Azerbaijan to:

  1. Immediately release and drop all charges against Ms Khadija Ismail as it is believed that they are solely motivated by her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;

  2. Guarantee in all circumstances that Ms Khadija Ismail is allowed to carry out her human rights work free from any harassment in the future;

  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

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