Joint Statement on the Release of Khadija Ismayilova
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress, we welcome last week’s release from prison of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova, her acquittal on appeal of two of four charges, and the reduction of her seven and half year sentence by the Azerbaijan Supreme Court. However, we are dismayed that Khadija’s convictions on two other spurious charges still stand, and that she now faces a lengthy term of probation, a travel ban, and a ban on professional activities. These restrictions prolong the injustice suffered by Khadija, who has spent the last year and half of her life wrongfully imprisoned.
A free and democratic society depends on a free and independent media. If Azerbaijan is to succeed as a democracy, journalists like Khadija must be able perform their vital work legally and without fear of government retaliation.
All remaining convictions against Khadija must be reversed and the conditions of her release must be lifted. Nothing less than a full acquittal and the full restoration of her fundamental rights is acceptable. Khadija has been released, but she is not yet free.
As we celebrate the partial victory in Khadija’s case, we must not forget that many other journalists and opposition political leaders remain incarcerated in Azerbaijan. We urge the government of Azerbaijan to release these prisoners of conscience as well, immediately and without conditions.