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In Baku, Ismayilova Trial Continues As Family Calls Case 'Lie From Top To Bottom'

Journalist Khadija Ismayilova (file photo)
Journalist Khadija Ismayilova (file photo)

BAKU -- A Baku court resumed the trial of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova on August 18, while her mother and sister doubted the court's impartiality.

The 39-year-old Ismayilova, an RFE/RL contributor who has won awards for her coverage of official corruption in oil-rich Azerbaijan, is accused of embezzlement, tax evasion, and abuse of power.

Rights groups and Western governments have echoed Ismayilova's charge that the case is politically motivated.

Her mother, Elmira Ismayilova, told journalists during a recess in the hearing on August 18 that the trial was "a lie from top to bottom."

She added that the court had already dismissed several defense motions.

Elmira Ismayilova
Elmira Ismayilova

"Khadija asked for an additional week to discuss the case with her lawyers. She also insisted that a man named Ramal Huseyov, who was officially registered in the case as a witness and whom she has never met, be invited to the courtroom to testify," Elmira Ismayilova said. "She also demanded that the hearings not be held on a daily basis so that her right to a daily, two-hour walk outside her cell or the courtroom could be respected. Basically, all her motions were rejected by the judge."

She said the judge, Ramela Allahverdiyeva, appeared to show no interest in what her daughter and the defense team were saying.

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service Is LIVE-BLOGGING The Trial

Ismayilova, who has reported extensively on the financial dealings of President Ilham Aliyev and members of his family, has been in a pretrial detention facility since her arrest in December.

The trial began on August 7, after preliminary hearings in July.

Ismayilova was initially charged with inciting a former colleague, Tural Mustafayev, to attempt suicide. The other charges were added later.

In July, Mustafayev told a preliminary hearing that he had "defamed" Ismayilova under pressure from law-enforcement agencies, but a defense motion to dismiss the charge was rejected.

READ MORE: Excerpts From Ismayilova's Testimony

In court last week, Mustafayev said that he had suffered a nervous breakdown in the past due to differences with his fiancee, and that Ismayilova had nothing to do with his suicide attempt. The judge, however, refused to remove him from the list of Ismayilova's official "victims" in the case.

Ismayilova is among the most prominent of dozens of activists, journalists, and government critics who have been jailed in Azerbaijan as part of what rights groups say is a clampdown on dissent in the former Soviet republic.

She says the charges against her are an attempt to silence her reporting.

The United States and other Western governments have called for Ismayilova's release. Amnesty International has called her a "prisoner of conscience," and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has termed the charges against her retaliation for her journalistic activity.

On August 10, Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced Ismayilova as a recipient of the 2015 Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism.

On July 29, the U.S. National Press Club presented to Ismayilova its highest press-freedom prize, the John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award.

In May, she won a media-freedom award from the PEN American Center, whose executive director said Ismayilova has "tackled corruption at the highest levels of the Azerbaijani government."

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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