(New York, NY)—In response to news that Azerbaijan’s supreme court has upheld tax evasion charges against investigative journalist and 2015 PEN Freedom to Write awardee Khadija Ismayilova, PEN America released to following statement:

“This blatantly politicized ruling by the supreme court provides spurious legal justification for the Aliyev government’s relentless campaign of harassment against Khadija Ismayilova,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “For more than three years since her release from prison, Khadija has been subject to surveillance, a travel ban, financial restrictions, and other forms of harassment intended to intimidate her into silence. We call on authorities to drop these ridiculous charges and allow Khadija full freedom of movement and the ability to continue her work freely.”

Azerbaijan is one of the world’s most restrictive environments for free expression. More than 20 writers and activists are currently detained, on trial, or jailed, and others are subject to regular harassment, threats, and violence. An internationally-acclaimed investigative journalist, Ismayilova has reported on the unethical business dealings of the Azerbaijani ruling family since 2010. After a year-long government smear campaign against her, Ismayilova was arrested on charges of “incitement to suicide” and economic crimes in December 2014.

During her 18 months in prison, she received the 2015 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, as well as several other accolades. In May 2016, Ismayilova was released on probation and granted a suspended sentence after her conviction in a sham trial was widely criticized by a large number of activists and human rights organizations.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. 

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, [email protected], +1 202 309 8892