PEN Canada welcomes the release of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, on probation. Ismayilova, who turns 40 on Friday, is an Honorary Member of PEN Canada.
Ismayilova, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, had been detained in Azerbaijan since December 2014. She began serving a seven and a half year prison sentence for trumped-up financial charges in September 2015. The rest of her sentence has been commuted to a three-year conditional sentence and she will be subject to a travel ban and other restrictions. PEN continues to call for all such restrictions to be lifted.
Ismayilova was arrested on December 5, 2014 on charges that she had incited a former colleague to commit suicide. Though acquitted of those charges, the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office added bogus charges of embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, and abuse of power. Ismayilova was convicted and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison on September 1, 2015, in a closed-door trial that was widely criticized for failing to meet international standards of due process and fairness. PEN believes Ismayilova was targeted for reporting that corruption in Azerbaijan extended to the highest rungs of the government, including President Ilham Aliyev. The recently released “Panama Papers” has substantiated her claims that Aliyev’s family had used offshore companies to hide their wealth and ownership of shares in Azeri businesses.
Ismayilova won the prestigious PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award at PEN America’s 2015 Literary Gala in New York. The award is given to an author or journalist in prison and is accompanied by a global campaign to demand the writer’s release. Ismayilova’s release makes her the 36th out of 40 jailed recipients of the PEN Freedom to Write Award over the last three decades who have subsequently been released from prison, due in part to the publicity generated by the Award.
If you would like to support PEN’s advocacy for Khadija Ismayilova, join the global protest, coordinated by Sports for Rights campaign, on Friday 27 May 2016 – Khadija Ismayilova’s 40th birthday – to celebrate her release, call for her full acquittal, and call for the release of the country’s dozens of remaining political prisoners. (There will be 40 parallel protests around the world.)
Canada protest for Khadija Ismayilova
Location: Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen Street West
When: 27 May, 12:30-13:00
Sponsoring NGO: Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Contact: Duncan Pike, email@example.com or +1 (416) 515-9622, ext 262
For more information, click here.