An Azerbaijani journalist imprisoned after exposing corruption throughout the government vowed to continue her investigations.
In a letter smuggled from Kurdakhani prison, investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova, a contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, wrote: "The only way to prove oppressive regimes' wrong is to continue exposing corruption." She promised more investigations this year.
Ismayilova was arrested in December on what are widely believed to be trumped-up charges of inciting a colleague to commit suicide, after reporting on the finances of President Ilham Aliyev and his relatives.
Earlier this month, Ismayilova's lawyer said additional charges were brought against her, including embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, and abuse of power. If found guilty, she could face 12 years in prison.
In her letter, Ismayilova said corruption in Azerbaijan begins with the president and stretches all the way down to petty officials. "This is a country where money and power can cover up any crime and where truth and deception have traded places," she wrote.
Jeff Shell, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees RFE/RL as well as VOA, said this week that “while Khadija demonstrates fierce resolve, we are deeply concerned and outraged by the Azerbaijani government’s flagrant assaults on press freedom.”
Ismaliyova wrote that she has spent time in solitary confinement while in pre-trial detention and her notes have been confiscated. She also is denied visits from her family.
"There is a price to pay," for investigative work in a country like Azerbaijan, she wrote, but added that she feels it is necessary to "build a new reality in where telling the truth will not require courage."