On 25 May 2016, award-winning Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova was released from prison in Azerbaijan.
Through her courageous reporting, Khadija exposed evidence of corruption by the President of Azerbaijan, later confirmed in the Panama Papers. Following an unfair trial she was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison on sham charges and had been in prison for almost a year and half before her release was announced yesterday.
Khadija has been represented by Nani Jansen of the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) and Amal Clooney of Doughty Street Chambers since 2015. In March 2016 they filed detailed legal submissions to the European Court alleging violations of Khadija’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
On 25 May, the Supreme Court of Baku issued a verdict acquitting Khadija on two of the four charges that she was convicted of (misappropriation and abuse of power) and reducing her sentence for the two remaining charges to conditional release and probation for a period of 5 years. A written judgment setting out the terms of her release is expected to follow shortly.
Following Khadija’s release her counsel, Nani Jansen of the Media Legal Defence Initiative said: “Khadija is a courageous investigative journalist who should never have been imprisoned. Her release is a significant and telling gesture by the Azerbaijani courts, which demonstrates in no uncertain terms that her detention was unjustified”.
Her co-counsel Amal Clooney, said: “we can all celebrate the fact that an innocent young woman has been freed. Khadija is a talented journalist who was instrumental in exposing corruption in her country. Her release is a victory for all journalists who dare to speak truth to power”.
She added that: “Khadija deserves full acknowledgment of her innocence and should be allowed to resume her work as a journalist without further harassment by the government”.
In April 2016, Mrs Clooney also met with representatives of the US Government in Washington DC, as well as the Azerbaijani Ambassador to the US, Elin Suleymanov, to call for Khadija’s release.
Mrs Clooney and MLDI would like to thank all those who worked to free Khadija; including, RFE/RL, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the US Government, Revolution Messaging, and the many NGO’s that have supported the case.
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