The arrest of Khadija Ismayilova, a Radio Free Europe journalist working for the Azerbaijani chapter, needs to be condemned in the strongest possible words. Her arrest was justified on the grounds of her alleged role in leading another journalist to attempt suicide. Before her arrest she was accused of treason. If convicted she faces from 3 to 7 years in prison. Mrs Ismailova has to be immediately released from prison.
Mrs Ismaylova is an award-winning investigative journalist specialising in writing about the ruling political elite of Azerbaijan, the presidential family and corruption. She is an internationally recognised speaker on the issues she tackled as a journalist. As a leading civil society and human rights activist, she is a credible source of information about the situation in Azerbaijan. She has been one of the last critical voices not yet arrested or harassed in Azerbaijan. Her arrest sends a chilling message by the authorities about the fate of all those who will dare to criticise them in the future.
It is yet another element of the ongoing systemic crackdown of the Azeri authorities on human rights activists and defenders. This campaign of intimidation and harassment of civil society organisations, opposition and independent journalists is a serious blow to the prospects of democracy and human rights in Azerbaijan. The authorities have chosen a course of action in which they treat those who dare have a different opinion as traitors. This is inexcusable.