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Jailed Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova (right) has agreed to accept an offer by Amal Clooney (left) to represent her. (file photo)

Imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist and RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova has confirmed that prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney will represent her at the European Court of Human Rights.

Ismayilova lawyer Fariz Namazli said in an exclusive statement on January 21 that the reporter, who was sentenced to more than seven years in prison last year on dubious economic-crimes charges, had agreed to Clooney's offer because of the "courage" she had demonstrated while defending Al-Jazeera journalistMohamed Fahmy in 2014 when he was imprisoned in Egypt.

Clooney, who has represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in recent years, will serve as co-counsel for Ismayilova.

The case seeks to challenge Azerbaijan's detention of Ismayilova -- who was in pretrial detention for nine months after her arrest in December 2014 -- as a violation of the European convention.

The initial charge, that she had prompted a former colleague to attempt to commit suicide, was dropped, but she remained jailed and was later charged with embezzlement, tax evasion, and abuse of power. In September, the 39-year-old Ismayilova was sentenced by an Azerbaijani court to 7 1/2 years in prison.

The legal actions against Ismayilova are widely considered to be retribution for her reporting that linked the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to extensive business and real-estate holdings, and have come under intense criticism from international rights groups and Western states, including members of the European Union.

"Amal Clooney's decision to take the case is a powerful affirmation of Khadija and her journalism," RFE/RL editor in chief Nenad Pejic said following Ismayilova's announcement. "It's a triumph for media freedom already, and I know that with their combined strength they will win."

WATCH: Ismayilova Accepts Clooney As Lawyer

Ismayilova Accepts Amal Clooney As Lawyer
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News earlier this week that Clooney, the wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, might get involved in Ismayilova's case sparked scathing criticism in state-run media in Azerbaijan.

At least one outlet suggested that she was biased against Azerbaijan as evidenced by her work representing ethnic Armenians against Turkey pertaining to the 1915 mass killings of Armenians under Ottoman rule.

Under Aliyev, the oil-rich former Soviet republic has turned increasingly authoritarian in recent years, jailing independent reporters, human rights activists, and civil-society advocates.

The country has also recently seen an outburst of civil unrest in recent weeks due to low global oil prices, which have squeezed its oil-dependent economy.

With reporting from RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service

A daughter of slain Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has rejected conclusions by the chief of Russia's Investigative Committee about her father's shooting death.

Zhanna Nemtsova told Interfax on January 21 that Nemtsov's murder has not been solved because the Investigative Committee "is not interested in fully solving the case."

Nemtsova's remarks came hours after Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin said Nemtsov’s murder case had been fully solved.

The Investigative Committee arrested five Chechen men in connection with killing Nemtsov as he was walking outside the Kremlin on February 27, 2015.

They were later charged with his murder.

The Investigative Committee said Ruslan Mukhudinov, the suspected organizer of the killing and a member of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's security forces, remains at large.

Nemtsov's relatives and lawyers have expressed skepticism about the investigations, insisting the killing must have been ordered by high-ranking Russian officials.

Based on reporting by Interfax, and TASS

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About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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