"If I Get Arrested": In Solidarity with Khadija Ismayilova

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Susan Coughtrie

28 Feb 2014

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Khadija Ismayilova is one of the very few independent investigative journalists working in Azerbaijan today. Well respected and renowned, both nationally and internationally, she has repeatedly exposed corruption amongst the upper echelons of Azerbaijan’s political elite – including the ruling Aliyev family.

In return for her efforts, she has faced repeated harassment and vicious smear campaigns – including a blackmail attempt in March 2012, her public refusal to submit to which led to the release of an explicit video containing intimate footage illegally obtained from a hidden camera placed in her apartment. Further smears, of a similar nature, were repeated in August 2013.

Last week the award winning journalist was accused of leaking state secrets, and called in for repeated questioning by Azerbaijani state prosecutors. Seemingly ‘absurd’ allegations against those who speak out on issues of national importance or criticise the authorities are not new to Azerbaijan. Over the last few years, criminal investigations into journalists and civil activists as drug dealers and gun pushers, amongst other similarly spurious charges, have been a frequent occurrence – creating a climate of fear of punitive punishment and chilling effect on freedom of expression.

The day after first being questioned by the authorities – on 18 February – Khadija published the below statement “If I Get Arrested” – calling on the international diplomatic community that support her to speak out publically, and refusing any backdoor deals or help on her behalf.

Such a powerful statement highlights the need for international institutions and individual states to take a strong stand in their relations with Azerbaijan, for Khadija and all her brave countryman and women who face punitive repression for legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression.

IF I GET ARRESTED

February 19, 2014 at 9:31pm

Things get more complicated here. So there are couple things I want to ask for: 

To international Human Rights activists:

You are doing everything right. Keep doing it. 

To democratic countries, diplomats, international organizations:

Just in case, I want to remind my request to international community in terms of possible advocacy actions regarding my possible arrest:

Some of you want to help, but can do it only with private diplomacy.

Thank you, but No. 

WHEN MY CASE IS CONCERNED,  if you can, please support by standing for freedom of speech and freedom of privacy in this country as loudly as possible. Otherwise, I rather prefer you not to act at all. 

I don't want any private diplomacy for my case. I don't believe in human rights advocacy behind closed doors. People of my country need to know that human rights are supported.

I also don't want any release-appreciation trade for my release. My possible arrest will be just one of the more than hundred politically motivated arrest and government of Azerbaijan has managed to use revolving doors of prisons for getting positive feedback from the West: releasing one prisoner, getting praised, arresting two. 

To fellow international journalists:

IF/WHEN I get arrested, I want you to make sure that your audience understand the reasons. Anti-corruption investigations are the reason of my arrest. The government is not comfortable with what I am doing. I am about to finish three investigations. I will make sure to finish them before anything happens, if not my editors and colleagues will finish and publish. 

İnvestigations I am working on are on the same topic:

Selected reports and investigations:

Latest report (in Azeri) is about Czech company of Arzu Aliyeva, president's daughter. The company is sold to tax minister's advisor. Law bans officials from owning businesses and it is not clear where the 1,2 millions EUros are taken?  

2012 President awarded family stake in gold fields

Lucrative gold mining contract signed in 2007 with unknown companies is about to bring millions to it’s secret owners. Khadija Ismayilova and Nushaba Fatullayeva discover familiar names hidden behind offshore companies. Azerbaijani President’s daughters are among beneficiaries.

2012 President’s family has a stake in Eurovision concert hall

Azerbaijan spends hundreds of millions to host Eurovision contest, with more than a hundred millions of public funds invested into the concert hall. Khadija Ismayilova’s investigation traces one of the subcontractors, involved to the expensive project and finds a link to the president’s family. The same company is involved into construction of state funded “patriot” project in 2010– the highest flagpole in the world (which became second highest after Tajikistan beat the record few months later) and shady privatization of energy construction facilities. 

2011 Tracking the President’s family business

For more than five years government of Azerbaijan lied to citizens about ownership of the mobile phone operator, naming German Siemens as an owner of Azerfon company, enjoying favorable conditions in the market, not available for competitors. The investigation reveals that president Aliyev’s daughters were behind Azerfon through shell companies in Panama.

2010 President Aliyev’s family and the illegal privatization of the public airport

The investigation conducted with Ulviyya Asadzade documented how President IlhamAliyev’s family was involved in the illegal privatization of the public bank and other parts of state owned Azerbaijan Airlines company, to benefit the Aliyev family. The government never publicly announced the privatization. The report was declared “the best investigation of Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty in 2010” among the 28 language services of the radio.h

 

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