Ever starting and stopping, the trial of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova on a range of criminal charges has again come to a halt — this time, until August 31.
At a short, August 26 session, Ismayilova’s lawyer, Fariz Namazli, alleging a disregard of previous defense documents, motioned for the court to reexamine the evidence against his client. The court had rejected materials that demonstrated that all the accusations against Khadija Ismayil are absurd,” he said, using the Azeri version of Ismayilova’s last name.
Ismayilova, facing a possible nine years in prison, requested a week to prepare her own final statement. Following a brief break, the judge announced the trial would resume on Monday, August 31.
"They are doing what [Azerbaijani President] Ilham [Aliyev] told them to do,” drily commented Ismayilova’s mother, Elmira, after the session, reported a live feed from RFE/RL, for whom Ismayilova worked as a freelance reporter.
Once again, journalists from non-government-associated news organizations and civil society representatives were denied access to the court proceedings.
The charges against Ismayilova, who exposed various instances of questionable ties between President Ilham Aliyev’s family and private businesses, have evolved with time. Charges of incitement to suicide were followed by fresh accusations of embezzlement, tax evasion and abuse of power after the incitement complainant dropped his allegations.
Ismayilova, who denies all charges, has been in remand for eight months now.
Ismayilova and the rights watchdogs who support her assert that the charges against her are retribution for her reporting; characteristic of a presidential administration that brooks no criticism and has locked away some of the brightest and bravest of Azerbaijani civil society.
The Ismayilova case, one of the best known instances of a state's prosecution of a journalist, is also seen as a test for Western governments’ willingness to hold a strategic, energy-rich partner accountable for its civil rights record.
So far, Azerbaijan has denounced such criticism as, simply, anti-Azerbaijani.