[UPD FEB 21]
Two influential European MPs - Ana Gomes, the Socialist spokesperson on foreign affairs, and Barbara Lochbiler, the chair of the Human Rights sub-committee wrote an open letter to the High Representative of the EU in foreign affairs Catherine Ashton and the Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Commissioner Stefan Fule, calling the accusations against Ms. Ismayil a reminiscence of the repressive Soviet practices, when dissidents were accused of being "foreign spies."
[UPD FEB 20]
U.S. Helsinki Commission issued the following statement in support of Khadija Ismayil on their Facebook page:
[UPD FEB 20]
In a public Facebook note titled "If I Get Arrested" Khadija Ismayil addressed a number of groups.
In particular, she asked democratic countries, diplomats and international organizations to not apply tactics of silent diplomacy: "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," wrote Ms. Ismayil, "People of my country need to know that human rights are supported." She called them to refrain from praising Azerbaijani government for releasing political prisoners, because "has managed to use revolving doors of prisons for getting positive feedback from the West: releasing one prisoner, getting praised, arresting two."
In her address to fellow journalists, Ms. Ismayil called to explain the true reasons of her arrest to their audience. "Anti-corruption investigations are the reason of my arrest," said Ms. Ismayil and added that at the moment she is finishing three more investigative pieces.
In conclusion Ms. Ismayil enclosed a selected number of her reports and investigations:
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.
[UPD FEB 20]
Having testified on February 18 and 19, Ms. Ismayil was summoned again for 5 p.m. on February 20. The prosecutor warned Ms. Ismayil against leaving the country.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament and leader of the pro-governmental IRELI Public Union Ceyhun Osmanli claimed to have had additional evidence against Ms. Ismayil. In his Facebook status Mr. Osmanli stated that he has submitted an audio recording of Ms. Ismayil's meeting with the U.S. senate staffers in Art Garden restaurant in Baku to the General Prosecutor's office. "Treason shall not be forgiven," wrote Mr. Osmanli.
Ms. Ismayil issued a response to the claims.
"Osmanli has come to the restaurant, where I was dining with Senate employees. When he came, we were already discussing the bill (as we paid for our meals separately). If he has more than the bill discussion, it means that he lies and he got the recording from someone else. Maybe the restaurant is actually providing espionage services to the government," wrote Ms. Ismayil.
Regardless of the recording's content, Mr. Osmanli's move was of questionable legality itself, as the 2009 referendum to Azerbaijan's Constitution established that any photo, audio and video recording without a person's consent is considered unlawful.
[UPD FEB 19]
On February 19, investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil will be testifying once again as a witness on the criminal case under the article 284.2 (dissemination of documents containing state secrets), which was launched against her.
Ms. Ismayil was first summoned to the Investigation Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office's Department for Grave Crimes yesterday. The questioning lasted several hours. According to Ms. Ismayil, who left the prosecutor’s office at 9 p.m., she was questioned about the abovementioned document, and was asked where it came from and for what purpose she obtained it. She also mentioned that there were attempts to put pressure on her during the interrogation. Ms. Ismayil request to see the decision to initiate criminal proceedings was discarded.
The case was launched based on an allegedly confidential document presented to her by the former employee of the Ministry of National Security in 2011, which she shared on her Facebook page. The document uncovered cooperation of the Ministry of National Security with one of the members of opposition and stated that the person was paid 600 AZN for their services and blackmailed with an intimate video into working with the ministry. After numerous attempts to verify the accuracy of the document, Ms. Ismayil marked over names mentioned in the document and shared it on her Facebook page. Prior to Ms. Ismayil a number of Facebook users shared the document. One of them was Facebook user Mustafa Kozlu.
In her interview with Meydan TV, Ms. Ismayil said that the fact that such a criminal case was filed, means that the document was indeed accurate and thus, acknowledged the Ministry of National Security's unlawful actions of blackmailing in order to discredit the opposition. "In my opinion this should spur a public debate. Ministry of National Security spends our taxpayer money on such activities," said Ms. Ismayil.
Human rights defender Intigam Aliyev stated that by sharing the documents claimed to be a state secret, Ms. Ismayil did not break any laws.
“Neither a journalist nor any other individual are liable for spreading information claimed to be a state secret. Only individuals that have access to those secrets with respect to their position can be held responsible. A journalists can only be prosecuted with this claim in case if they were cleared to work with classified information, were warned about the secrecy of the information, and all of it was documented. If any of the above is not in place, a journalist that obtains state secret information or a document can easily disseminate it.”
Mr. Aliyev also noted that journalists have a right not to disclose their sources and can only be requested to do so in special cases:
“The right not to disclose their source of information is one of the bases of the freedom of media and journalists. However, the argument related to the question was clarified by the resolution of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in March 2000. A journalist can only be forced to disclose their source of information if legal interest in the disclosure exceeds public interests in remaining it a secret,” said Mr. Aliyev.
According to Mr. Aliyev it is not the case, and Ms. Ismayil cannot be required to reveal her sources. If, should she refuse to obey, she is prosecuted, it will be a demonstration of the government’s bias against her.
The case came amidst yet another smear campaign launched against Ms. Ismayil last week, when pro-government media source Haqqin.az published an article claiming that Ms. Ismayil handed a list of Azerbaijani opposition leaders and public figures to the U.S. intelligence agents. The claims were picked up by other pro-government media sources and discussed in Milli Majlis (the Parliament). Ms. Ismayil denied the allegations, and the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan called them absurd.
Correction: The original publication wrongly indicated position of the person who handed the document to Ms. Ismayil. It was a former employee of the Ministry of National Security, not a current one.