Europe rights court rules Azerbaijan imprisoned journalist to silence and punish her News
© WikiMedia (CherryX)
Europe rights court rules Azerbaijan imprisoned journalist to silence and punish her

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) unanimously ruled Thursday that journalist Khadija Ismayilova’s arrest and detention was an attempt to silence and punish her for her criticism of the Azerbaijani government. The court also ruled that the government’s actions violated several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court ruled that, because Ismayilova had been arrested and detained without reasonable suspicion of an offense, the government violated Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court also found that this act violated Article 5 § 4 (review of the lawfulness of detention), Article 6 § 2 (right to presumption of innocence) and Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights).

Ismayilova has had a long history of conflict with the Azerbaijani government. The court’s press release stated that “between 2010 and 2012 she wrote investigative articles which examined the alleged involvement of President Aliyev’s family in illegal business activities.” As a result of these articles, it was believed that “Intimate videos of her were unlawfully recorded by a hidden camera and subsequently put on the Internet.” This conflict was resolved in her favor in 2019 in a separate case heard before the ECHR and also titled Khadija Ismayilova v. Azerbaijan. She has been arrested several times by the government and officially labeled by the government authorities as a person who “demonstrates a hostile attitude towards well-known Azerbaijani public figures and spreads insulting lies.”

This case centered on Imayilova’s arrest in December of 2014 when she was “charged with the criminal offence of incitement to suicide after a former colleague alleged that he had tried to kill himself.” The accuser quickly retracted this accusation and cited that he had been coerced by government forces. He was also arrested shortly after his retraction. Despite the retraction, the court refused to drop the charges and rejected her appeal for relief. In February of 2015, the authorities brought more charges against her, including “high-level embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, large-scale tax evasion and aggravated abuse of power.”

In September of 2015, “she was found guilty of the financial charges and sentenced to seven and a half years’ imprisonment.” During the trial, the charge of incitement to commit suicide was eventually dropped for lack of evidence. In May 2016, the Supreme Court “quashed her conviction for high-level embezzlement and aggravated abuse of power, reducing her sentence to three years’ imprisonment suspended on probation and releasing her from detention.”

The court’s ruling Thursday found that “authorities’ actions had been driven by improper reasons and showed that the actual goal had been to silence and punish her for her work as a journalist.” They also ordered, “that Azerbaijan was to pay the applicant 20,000 euros (EUR) in respect of pecuniary damage and non-pecuniary damage and EUR 5,000 in respect of costs and expenses.”