Law 17:33 01/09/2015

Khadija Ismayilova sentenced to 7.6 years in prison for unmasking Ilham Aliyev’s personal business

Baku Court of Grave Crimes handed down a 7.6 years prison sentence to the Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova, Turan agency reports.

The court found her guilty of the Articles 179 (embezzlement and misappropriation), 192 (illegal business), 213 (tax evasion) and 308 (abuse of power) of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Ismayilova was cleared from the article 125 (incitement to commit suicide) of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan, according to the report.

After the trial, which took place on 31 August 2015, the journalist’s lawyers released her speech in English and Azerbaijani. In her speech, Ismayilova stated that the repression machine of the Azerbaijani authorities is about to collapse. The full text is published on the website of RFE/RL.

The Azerbaijani journalist pointed to “the ability of Azerbaijan’s law-enforcement system to invent crimes.” “But for years the honest citizens of this country, its honest journalists (and I am not talking about the ones who have been kissing up to the prosecutor, of course), and its human rights defenders have been exposing the shame of our judicial system. They have forced the repression machine to cover its disgraceful acts with even more shame. The more lies that were exposed, the more they were forced to tell more lies. The prosecutor's office and the court employees had to resort to more dishonesty to cover their lies,” the written version of the speech says.

Ismayilova highlighted that during the whole investigation process, the witnesses’ statements were either given under pressure or signed without them having actually read their statements. One of the witnesses was offered a bribe. She stressed that a significant part of investigation materials remained ignored. The investigation alleged that Tural Mustafayev attempted to commit suicide because after their relations terminated, Ismayilova organized his dismissal from online Meydan TV.

“If Tural Mustafayev’s attempt at suicide, as he testified in court, was not because of breaking up with his fianceé but due to his inability to find a job, then [President] Ilham Aliyev should be sitting here with me in the defendant's seat. Because Mustafayev complained he could not find a job even at pro-government media outlets,” Ismayilova pointed.

She said the government of Azerbaijan tried really hard and did all it could to accuse her of incitement to attempt suicide. “But I came out stronger. They peeked into my personal life, but I didn’t break. They blackmailed me, but I did not bow. Now I won't break under a 15- or even a 25-year sentence,” the journalist stated.

Further, Khadija Ismayilova criticized each of the articles she was accused of. She called “funny” the accusation of tax evasion, as she said she was the person who investigated the presidential clan’s stolen money stored in offshore accounts, their abuse of state deals and contracts with offshore companies and groups and of evading taxes. “My students, my colleagues, and I were writing about offshore realities, cases of tax evasion, companies on islands in their own names and companies in Azerbaijan under the names of others evading taxes,” the speech says.

Commenting on the allegation of embezzlement and misappropriation, the journalist stated that the prosecutor and tax officers were unable to show any agreement or order for payment signed by her. She added that unlike the charge against her, the hero of her stories, Ilham Aliyev, really “squandered the state budget” and this was proved in her work with company documents and copies of orders.
As for accusing her of abuse of power, Ismayilova said that she had earlier proved that Ilham Aliyev’s clan appropriated state contracts without any tenders, illegally privatized state banks, and made sure that millions would be transferred on the orders of the president to industrial enterprises that would later be sold for pennies.

Referring to the allegation of illegal business, Ismayilova said, “Together with my colleagues, I was very surprised to see our president’s name as the founder of a number of companies registered in the Virgin Islands. When these companies were established he was not a president, but he was still a parliament member and vice president at the State Oil Company (SOCAR). Although he was then prime minister and later president, he did not give up the ownership of these companies.”

To conclude, Khadija Ismayilova called on her colleagues to continue the fight for justice, and said words of support to the journalists, human rights defenders and activists, who had been sentenced earlier. However, she criticized the international bodies and foreign governments. She said the violations they saw in that court still will not prevent their ambassadors from shaking hands with a dictator and applauding corruption-infused projects.

She expressed special gratitude towards her lawyers, and wished the Judge Ramella Allahverdiyeva a pleasant vacation after she read out the sentence. “I wish you a day when you go on vacation without an aching and silenced conscience. I hope that the filth to which you have put your signature does not come back to you or your relatives like a boomerang. Although the Law of Inertia does not leave much room for this hope,” Ismayilova summed up.

Eurasianet.org reports that Azerbaijan’s pro-government mainstream media, which largely has depicted Ismayilova’s petitions as an attempt to delay the trial, focused on prosecutors’ objection to the final statement and repeated the charges against her.
According to the Voice of America reports, lawyers and others who attended the trial described it as a tense session in which the prosecutor repeatedly called on the judge to stop Ismayilova after she mentioned President Aliyev.

During the trial, which took place in Baku Court of Grave Crimes on 21 August 2015, the public prosecutor, Ramazan Hadiyev, claimed 9 years of imprisonment for Khadija Ismayilova.

On 5 December 2014, the well-known Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova was detained after being questioned at the prosecutor's office. Baku Sabail District Court made a decision to detain her on charges of incitement to suicide. Khadija Ismayilova has become the target of attacks of the government for her journalistic activities. Ismayilova is an author of a number of journalistic investigations of corruption in the highest echelons of power in Azerbaijan. In recent years, she was conducting a talk show in the Azerbaijani Service of Radio Liberty. The arrest of Ismayilova has been followed by a wave of condemning statements by a number of international organizations and influential representatives from various states. Protests have been organized in her support in various countries; and prominent international outlets released articles covering the topic.

In early April, Azerbaijani journalist Tural Mustafayev – under whose complaint Khadija Ismayilova had been arrested last December – wrote a letter to Zakir Garalov, the Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan, saying that he wanted to withdraw his appeal. When asked why he had lodged an accusation, Mustafa told the journalist that he was under emotional stress in that period.



Source Panorama.am
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