NEW YORK– A court ruling upholding the conviction of acclaimed investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova in Azerbaijan this week marks another grim chapter in an orchestrated government quest to silence her, PEN American Center said today.

On November 25, an Azerbaijani appellate court upheld the guilty verdict against Ismayilova, who was convicted in September on bogus charges of embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, and abuse of power and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison. During a hearing for the appeal, the judge rejected a request to allow Ismayilova to sit next to her lawyers and repeatedly turned off Ismayilova’s microphone while she was trying to speak.

“Khadija’s case demonstrates the extreme lengths to which the Azerbaijani authorities will go to silence any form of dissent,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN.  “Their callous retribution against her, including long stints in solitary confinement and judicial interference, is meant to strike fear in the hearts of would-be dissenters, touting President Ilham Aliyev’s blatant disregard for human rights and the rule of law when it comes to protecting his own image.”

Ismayilova, recipient of the 2015 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, is known for her fearless investigative reporting to expose corruption, human rights abuses, and other government malfeasance in Azerbaijan. Her work has made her a long-time target for harassment and intimidation by Azerbaijani authorities, culminating in her detention on December 5, 2014, on unfounded charges that she attempted to incite a colleague to commit suicide. While she was eventually acquitted of those charges, the government extended her pretrial detention for months to accumulate new charges against her and shield her from the spotlight of the June 2015 European Games in Baku. Her closed-door trial, which began in July, was widely condemned for failing to meet international standards.

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Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 4,000 U.S. writers working to bring down barriers to free expression worldwide. www.pen.org

CONTACT
Karin Karlekar, Director of Free Expression Programs: kdkarlekar@pen.org, (646) 779.4822
Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: sedkins@pen.org, (646) 779.4830