Accessibility links

Breaking News

Jailed Azerbaijani Journalist Ismayilova's Accuser Drops Complaint

Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova gestures to supporters at a court hearing earlier this year.

BAKU -- The plaintiff in a case against Khadija Ismayilova, a jailed Azerbaijani investigative journalist and contributor to RFE/RL, says he has formally asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to withdraw his complaint.

Tural Mustafayev told RFE/RL on April 7 that he was under emotional stress when he lodged his accusation last year and now wants to "make peace" with Ismayilova.

Ismayilova was arrested on December 5 on suspicion of inciting Mustafayev to attempt suicide.

Ismayilova, whose reporting has exposed corruption by government officials in the oil-producing former Soviet republic, denies wrongdoing and says the charges against her are politically motivated.

It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors would drop the case and whether Ismayilova would be freed if they do.

In February, new charges were brought against her alleging tax evasion, illegal business activities, and abuse of power.

Ismayilova's current period of pretrial detention is due to end on May 24.

Her incarceration has been widely condemned by international rights groups as part of a campaign by longtime President Ilham Aliyev's government to intimidate and silence independent activists and journalists.

Western governments have called for the release of Ismayilova, 38, and other activists and journalists that rights groups say are jailed or imprisoned on trumped up, politically motivated charges.

Aliyev denies that Azerbaijan infringes on human rights or media freedoms, and also denies that there are political prisoners in the mostly Muslim South Caucasus nation of 9.7 million.

A day before Ismayilova's arrest, Aliyev's chief of staff, Ramiz Mehdiyev, publicly accused her of treason.

Later in December, the RFE/RL bureau in Baku was ransacked and ordered closed by investigators, while dozens of RFE/RL reporters were summoned by police for questioning related to their employment.

In March, when a Baku court held an unannounced snap hearing and prolonged Ismayilova's pretrial detention until May 24, the prosecutor's office issued a statement linking the charges brought against her in February to allegations that RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service had been operating in the country as an illegal entity since 2008.

Ismayilova told the court at the time that the new charges against her were "fabricated" and politically motivated.

RFE/RL editor in chief, Nenad Pejic, said then "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."

The United States said last month that releasing jailed Azerbaijanis including Ismayilova, rights activist Leyla Yunus and her husband, Arif, human rights lawyer Intiqam Aliyev, and others would demonstrate adherence to Azerbaijan's "commitments to uphold the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens."