Elchin Ismayilli, a political activist and journalist in Azerbaijan’s Ismayilli District, has been sentenced to nine years in prison for ‘extortion’, ‘bribery’ and ‘abuse of office’.
Shaki District Court announced the decision on 18 September, Ekho Kavkaza reported. Ismayilli plans to appeal to a higher court.
Caucasian Knot quoted Elchin Sadigov, the lawyer of the activist, as saying that there was not enough evidence to prove his client guilty.
According to the lawyer, Ismayilli could not have been guilty of abuse of power, as he did not ‘hold executive positions in any editorial offices’. The defence claimed that all the charges against Ismayilli were trumped-up.
The activist was charged with extortion and abuse of power in February, but in August the Prosecutor’s Office added the charge of bribery to the list of accusations.
According to the authorities, Ismayilli threatened to smear an official from the Tourism and Culture Department of Ismayilli District unless he handed over the money. Ismayilli was arrested while receiving the money.
Ismayilli, who has worked for several media outlets in the country, including Radio Azadlig, the Azerbaijani branch of RFE/RL, claims he knew the alleged victim for a long time and was only borrowing money from him. The activist claims to be prosecuted for his critical publications about officials from the Ismayilli District.
Ismayilli is also a member of the political party, the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA). The Deputy Chairman of the PFPA, Gozal Bayramli, told Caucasian Knot in February that Ismayilli was arrested for ‘having denounced the illegal actions of officials’.
‘Generally speaking, Elchin always wrote about illegality, unresolved social problems, violations of local residents’ rights’, she added.
Bayramli was also detained on 25 May while crossing the Georgian–Azerbaijani border for allegedly smuggling €12,000 ($13,400) in cash. This happened 4 days before Afgan Mukhtarli, an Azerbaijani journalist residing in Tbilisi, was abducted near his house and then detained for allegedly smuggling €10,000 ($11,200), border trespass, and disobeying border guards.
[For more details about Bayramli and Mukhtarli’s cases, read on OC Media:
- Baku Court denies appeal from jailed opposition politician
- Footage of Mukhtarli on night of his abduction ‘doctored’ as EU calls for answers]