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Azerbaijan’s jailing of an award winning journalist barely two weeks after two prominent human rights activists received jail sentences is another severe attack on free speech.

Investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova, who works for Radio Free Europe, was jailed at a closed session trial in Baku for seven and a half years under trumped-up charges of embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion and abuse of office.

“This was yet another unfair trial relying on fabricated charges. The government has stepped up its brutal crackdown on political activists, journalists, human rights defenders – indeed anyone who dares to publicly raise a critical voice,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

“By adopting draconian laws and aggressively applying them the Azerbaijani authorities have effectively criminalized free speech and the freedom of association. They are simply abusing the criminal justice system to persecute dissenters.“

According to Khadija Ismayilova’s lawyer the prosecution failed to provide documentary evidence substantiating any of the charges made against her.

Khadija Ismayilova’s parents and independent journalists were regularly prevented from attending trial hearings and only a handful of diplomats were present.

“The government wants to spread fear amongst its critics and send out a message to civil society that it cannot turn to the law to ensure their rights are upheld,” said Denis Krivosheev.