Human Rights Watch has named Azeri journalist and RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova the recipient of its 2015 Alison Des Forges Award.
In a statement announcing the award on August 10, the rights group cites Ismayilova, an internationally recognized investigative journalist who has spent more than eight months in prison in connection with her reporting, "for her extraordinary courage as a journalist and human rights activist in the face of the unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan."
Ismayilova was arrested in Baku on December 5, 2014 on charges of inciting a colleague to attempt suicide.Although the accuser has since withdrawn the accusation, Azeri authorities have continued to prosecute the case. She has also been charged with embezzlement, tax evasion, and the abuse of power, accusations she has characterized as "politically motivated."
Ismayilova's trial, which on some days has proceeded without her lawyers, without public scrutiny, and in the absence of numerous other due process guarantees, began on August 7 and is expected to conclude this week.
She faces a sentence of up to 19 years.