website editor and reporter
Date of arrest – 17 February 2017
Penal facility – Sheki Pretrial Detention Facility
Charges (2000 Criminal Code) –
182 – Extortion; 308 – abuse of power; 311 – bribery.
Case description – Elchin Ismayilli is a journalist and activist based in the town of Ismayilli in northwest Azerbaijan (Daglig-Shirvan region). He is a member of the opposition Popular Front Party’s Council. Ismayilli works as a journalist, he is an editor-in-chief of the http://www.kend.info (kend means village) website. He has also been a contributor to number of media outlets including Azadliq newspaper up to his arrest and RFE/RL Azerbaijani service in the past.
Ismayilli was detained on 17 February 2017. Later in the night the group of police and prosecutor office employees came to his rented apartment to conduct search. Operation group ceased his computer and his hunting rifle (legally obtained). On 18 February 2017 Nasimi District Court in Baku remanded him in custody for 24 days as a measure of restraint. Custody was several times up until the trial.
Initially the journalist was charged with the Articles 182 (extortion) and 308 (abuse of power). He was accused of blackmailing Ismayilli district officials by threatening them with publication of compromising information. Later prosecution added the Article 311 (bribery) to the charges against Elchin Ismayilli.
According to indictment the journalist has demanded money from official of Executive Power Azer Abbasov. Abbasov applied to the Internal Security Service of Azerbaijan and they arrested the journalist.
Elchin Ismayilli denied all accusations and claimed he has borrowed the 1000 AZN found on him from Azer Abbasov, who was a long-time friend. Abbasov, the chief of the Culture and Tourism Section of Ismayilli district Executive Power said in the court that the money were given to him by the head of Executive Power Mirdamed Sadigov, who in fact asked to deliver the money to Elchin Ismayilli. Abbasov stated in the court that Elchin Ismayilli had not asked for the bribe, the initiative to give him money has come from the district executive governor Sadigov.
The investigation process and trial were accompanied with gross procedural violations. Investigators failed to provide proofs that Ismayilli had blackmailed or in some other way demanded the money from officials, abused his power or received a bribe. The defence stated that participation of the Security Service in the arrest of the journalist who was accused of demanding 600 USD in fact shows the political nature of the case. Even if the money which journalist claimed taking as a dept from official were in fact a bribe, there was no basis for bringing up the extortion charges against him. The human rights defenders who monitored the case consider the journalist was framed by district officials and the charges against him were politically motivated solely aimed at silencing the journalist, who constantly criticized both officials in his kend.info website. The suspicions on the political motivations were confirmed by procedural violations during the process, including lack of media access, limitation of access to lawyer, clear guidance of the witnesses by presiding judge and threats against his lawyer Elchin Sadigov.
Sentence – Sheki Grave Crimes Court (judge Rashid Huseynov) sentenced Elchin Ismayilli on 18 September 2017 to 9 years loss of liberty by finding him guilty in all charges.
Sheki Appeal Court on 05 December 2017 upheld the decision.