A court in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, has extended the pretrial detention of investigative reporter and RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova by two months until May 24.
The ruling was issued in an unscheduled, snap proceeding on March 6 by the Baku City Nasimi District Court.
The Azerbaijani state prosecutor’s office said the extension was necessary because of an investigation into recent charges that allege RFE/RL’s Azerbaijan Service has been operating as an illegal entity since 2008.
Those charges against RFE/RL appear related to charges brought against Ismayilova on February 13 alleging tax evasion, illegal business activities and abuse of power by the investigative reporter.
Ismayilova, whose investigative reporting has exposed corruption by Azerbaijani government officials, told the court on March 6 that the charges against her are “fabricated” and politically motivated.
RFE/RL editor in chief Nenad Pejic said, "The case against RFE/RL, and by extension the case against Khadija, has no basis in reality - the Azeris are making these things up as they go. We have memoranda from state agencies recognizing our broadcasting rights, tax documents, and years of approved Azeri state audits - everything required. All of these charges should be dropped and Khadija should be released immediately."
Ismayilova’s detention has been widely condemned by international rights groups as part of a systematic campaign authorized at senior levels of Azerbaijan’s government to intimidate and silence independent activists and journalists.