Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova has been freed from prison, although not acquitted entirely. Judges ruled that her term would be reduced to a three-and-a-half year suspended sentence.
Ismayilova had investigated her country’s first family’s finances and exposed the fact that the president’s family had been given a lucrative contract for a gold field, among other illegal dealings.
For exposing corruption, she was put on trial in 2015 under what Amnesty International described as “trumped up charges”: tax evasion, embezzlement and abuse of power.
According to Ismayilova, her trial was a farce. She alleged that the evidence against her was either taken “under pressure” or “signed without these people actually reading the statements” and that one witness was offered a bribe. Ismayilova was sentenced to seven and a half years in jail. At the time of her sentencing she said, “I will continue my journalistic work with renewed energy. I will fight until the end.”
Now under probation, Ismayilova must live in Baku, the capital, and cannot leave the country without official permission for five years. Despite these restrictions, PEN America described her release as “a victory for journalists everywhere who go up against the toughest regimes bent on silencing those who dare challenge them.”
Ismayilova is an award-winning journalist, a human rights activist, and a literary figure who translated The Kite Runner into Azerbaijani.