Clooney, the wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program on Jan. 19 that she would be defending the Azerbaijani journalist, although Ismayilova’s lawyers say they have not yet confirmed an agreement with Clooney.
Clooney has in the past taken on several prominent human rights cases in Egypt, Armenia, and the Maldives, defending people imprisoned on charges often seen by human rights groups as politically motivated, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.
Ismayilova, who works for Radio Free Europe, was sentenced in September 2015 to seven-and-a-half years in prison on charges of embezzlement and tax evasion. The charges were widely viewed as being trumped up in retaliation for her reports linking family members of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to a lucrative construction project.
Ismayilova had previously come under pressure from the authorities for her reporting, her defense team says. On March 14, 2012, a video recording from a hidden camera installed in her apartment was released on the Internet, showing the journalist having sex.
Ismayilova said at that time that she was sure the government was behind the filming and release of the video, and that it was being used to discredit her in the eyes of the conservative Azerbaijani society.
After release of the video recordings, the pro-government newspapers Yeni Azerbaijan, Iki Sahil and Ses published articles accusing the journalist of immoral behavior.
According to the Turan News Agency, on April 26, 2012 the Prosecutor General’s Office and Baku Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement that also included information relating to Ismayilova’s personal life.
Ismayil’s lawyer, Yalchin Imanov, commenting to the Azeri service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, said in the near future he would appeal to the prosecutor’s office to resume the investigation into who installed the hidden camera in the journalist’s home, which he said had been closed.
Two cases from Ismailova have been filed at the European Court of Human Rights. According to another of Ismayilova’s lawyers, Fariz Namazli, both of the cases are connected to attempts to discredit Ismayilova. They were sent to the ECHR on Sept. 26, 2013 and July 31, 2014.
The Strasbourg Court has also accepted for review an appeal against the illegal arrest of Ismayilova.
Amnesty International considers Ismayilova to be a prisoner of conscience.
Kyiv Post intern Gulnar Salimova can be reached at [email protected]
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