WASHINGTON -- A senior U.S. lawmaker has urged Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev to release imprisoned investigative reporter and RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova and other journalists, warning that their continued detention "will harm relations between our two countries."
U.S. Representative Ed Royce, a Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a January 28 letter to Aliyev that Azerbaijan's continued closure of RFE/RL's Baku bureau is damaging bilateral relations.
"I urge you to release Ismayilova, as well as other journalists imprisoned on dubious charges, and allow RFE/RL's Baku bureau to resume operations," Royce wrote.
Ismayilova was sentenced in September 2015 to 7 1/2 years in prison on charges widely viewed as retaliation for investigative reports linking Aliyev's family to massive business and real estate holdings.
Her imprisonment has been denounced by Western officials and international rights groups.
In December 2014, Azerbaijani prosecutors raided RFE/RL's Baku bureau -- seizing computers, hard drives, and other equipment before sealing off the premises.
RFE/RL closed its still-sealed Baku bureau in May but continues to broadcast to Azerbaijan from its headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic.