Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil has joined a hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners in the country.
Ismayil joined the protest in support of Mehman Huseynov, a jailed Azerbaijani blogger who is in a critical condition because he has drunk no liquids and eaten no food for the past 19 days in protest against the new, trumped-up charges that have been brought against him.
Seven other political prisoners, including journalists Fikret Faramazoglu, Elchin Ismayilli and blogger Rashad Ramazanov are also on a hunger strike. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is demanding the release of the political prisoners.
In a tweet, RSF’s UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent asked “how long will the Aliyev regime continue to get away with this gross injustice?”
My video appeal calling on @presidentaz to immediately release hunger striking jailed journalist Mehman Huseynov, ensure he gets medical care, drop the charges against him, and stop persecuting those who express critical opinions in #Azerbaijan. #FreeMehman pic.twitter.com/evtKqVYuzt
— Rebecca Vincent (@rebecca_vincent) January 9, 2019
In a statement, Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk said “we ask them to free this blogger (Huseynov) as a matter of urgency and to drop the new charges against him. The international community must do everything in its power to achieve this.”
Mehman Huseynov was jailed in March 2017 for allegedly “defaming” the policeman he said had tortured him while he was previously detained.
A well known blogger who often criticises the Aliyev regime and denouncing high-level corruption, Huseynov, was due to be freed in March 2019 but is now facing the possibility of an additional seven-year sentence for allegedly hitting a prison guard.
Following a protest against the charges brought against Huseynov on 3 January, the Aliyev regime has arrested a number of journalists and activists. On 4 January an Azerbaijan court sentenced journalist Afgan Sadigov to 22 days in prison, while journalist Nurlan Qahramanov and political activists Elmkhan Agayev and Sakhavat Nabiyev were sentenced to 21 days in prison
Writing on Facebook, Khadija Ismayil demanded Azerbaijan’s government to drop charges against five political prisoners who were about to end their prison terms and release all journalists, bloggers, and freedom of expression activists from prison.
She also demanded a “zero political prisoners policy”, including a review of all political prisoners cases with the independent human rights activists groups.
Khadija Ismayil was herself imprisoned in 2015 for her role in uncovering the interests of the kleptocratic Aliyev family, which has been ruling Azerbaijan for over 25 years.
In December 2014, she was arrested on spurious charges of inciting a person to attempt suicide and was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison under additional charges of embezzlement, illegal business, abuse of power, and misappropriation after the court acquitted her of the original charge of inciting suicide.
Then in May 2016 she was released on probation with three and a half years still to serve, a ban on continuing her work as a journalist, and a travel ban.
Last week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the authorities in Azerbaijan failed to investigate serious invasions of privacy of Khadija Ismayil.