Two days before her 40th birthday, Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was released from prison on May 25. Questions persist about the Azerbaijani government’s motivation for the release, and whether it portends a loosening of restrictions on civil liberties at home and improved relations with the United States and European Union.
International critics and Ismayilova herself, an internationally celebrated freelance journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the anti-corruption watchdog OCCRP, had maintained that her imprisonment was politically motivated, retribution for her investigations into shady business practices by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s family.
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Durna Safarova is a freelance journalist who covers Azerbaijan.