Some regional experts want the United States and European Union to consider imposing economic and political penalties on Azerbaijan to put pressure on Baku to respect basic individual freedoms.
The sentencing of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova to a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence on September 1 should be seen as a tipping point in relations between the United States and European Union and Azerbaijan, some rights advocates contend. Ismayilova was convicted on criminal charges of embezzlement, abuse of power and illegal business practices. Her supporters contend the case against her was fabricated to stop her investigations into the corrupt practices of top Azerbaijani officials and their family members.
US, British and European Union diplomats have publically called for Ismayilova’s release, and have urged Azerbaijani leaders to halt a crackdown on government critics. Azerbaijan has brushed off such criticism, describing it as an attempt to “politicize” its judiciary and “distort reality.”
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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance journalist based in Tbilisi. He is a frequent contributor to EurasiaNet.org's Tamada Tales blog.