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RFE/RL Reporter Slams Azerbaijani Prosecutors For Releasing Probe Details

"They were not investigating the crime," said Khadija Ismayilova. "Instead, they were investigating me, my lifestyle, and my friends."
"They were not investigating the crime," said Khadija Ismayilova. "Instead, they were investigating me, my lifestyle, and my friends."
BAKU -- At a defiant press conference in Baku, Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova lashed out at prosecutors looking into a smear campaign that was launched against her last month and which she believes is aimed at intimidating her into ending her journalistic investigations.

"I need to see progress in the course of the investigation," she said. "Unfortunately, I don't see any."

Last month, Ismayilova received an envelope with some intimate photographs of her and a note saying she would be "defamed" if she didn't "behave." A week later, a sexually explicit video appeared online that was filmed by a camera surreptitiously installed in her apartment. Almost simultaneously, a long, scurrilous article attacking Ismayilova was published in the official organ of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party.

Ismayilova -- the former Baku bureau chief of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service who currently hosts a daily program for the service -- blames the authorities for the campaign against her, saying it is aimed at stopping her investigations of corruption, some of which have targeted President Ilham Aliyev and his family. She has appeared widely in local and international media in recent weeks, asserting that authorities are doing little to investigate the campaign against her.

Personal Information

On April 26, the Baku prosecutor's office released a statement on the Ismayilova case that was aimed at refuting her claims that the investigation has been languishing. The statement did not mention any suspects or say whether a formal criminal investigation into blackmail charges would be launched.
The release of information corresponds to the criminal code. There is nothing illegal about it.
Eldar Sultanov, Prosecutor-General's Office

But it did contain the names and other personal information about nearly a dozen people who have been questioned in connection with the case, something that Ismayilova's lawyers say is clearly against the law. Prosecutors named Ismayilova's friends and acquaintances and even publicly identified the man who is allegedly in the video with Ismayilova, although even the blackmailers had blotted out his face before posting the film.

There is no mention that prosecutors questioned anyone in connection with the unsigned article that appeared in the Yeni Azerbaycan Party newspaper.

Ismayilova told RFE/RL the statement vindicates her previous claims that the threats against her are not being taken seriously.

"The Baku prosecutor's office statement showed that the prosecutor's office was not doing anything substantial on the investigation. They were not investigating the crime," she said. "Instead, they were investigating me, my lifestyle, and my friends."

'Nothing Illegal'

Eldar Sultanov, a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, dismissed Ismayilova's charges in comments to RFE/RL on April 27. He said the statement was released merely to show the investigation is "comprehensive and objective."

"The release of information corresponds to the criminal code," Sultanov said. "There is nothing illegal about it."

Just hours before the statement was released, Ismayilova met with prosecutors and turned over information from her own probe into the incident, including information about the Moscow post office from which she believes the threatening letter was mailed. She asked prosecutors to question a technician from the local phone company, who she believes may have information about how the camera was installed in her apartment.

Also on April 26, President Aliyev's office issued a statement saying that two unnamed suspects had been identified in the investigation, but Ismayilova says prosecutors have said nothing about that in her meetings with them.

Presidential legal affairs adviser Fuad Alesgerov told a state news agency that Ismayilova has "established very good relations with the prosecutors" and that "we are seriously investigating the case."

"It's interesting that the prosecutors demanded that we give a written undertaking that we will not disclose secrets of the investigation," said Erkin Qadirli, a lawyer who was questioned in connection with the case and whose name appears in the prosecutor's statement. "But now they have done it themselves. It would seem we have also been freed of this obligation to keep the secrets of the investigation."

Ismayilova's lawyer says they will sue prosecutors over the released information.

RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson contributed to this report from Prague

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