COPENHAGEN, 25 May 2016 – The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative on the South Caucasus, Kristian Vigenin (MP, Bulgaria), and the Chair of the OSCE PA’s Committee on Democracy, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Questions, Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal), today welcomed the release by the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova.

“It is great news that Khadija Ismayilova has been freed from prison and will return safely to her family. I welcome this positive development, which ultimately serves the best interests of Azerbaijan, its people and the OSCE,” said Vigenin, who will be in Baku later this week and will hold meetings on a range of issues, including human rights.

“I take note of this positive step taken by Azerbaijan toward upholding its OSCE human dimension commitments and I look forward to constructively engage with Azerbaijan’s authorities on human rights, the rule of law, and other democracy-related issues,” said Santos.

Ismayilova’s reporting focused on alleged high-level corruption in Azerbaijan. The Baku Court on Grave Crimes sentenced her to seven and a half years in prison in September 2015 after finding her guilty of tax evasion, illegal business activities, criminal libel and abuse of power. Ismayilova had been held since her arrest in December 2014. The Supreme Court reduced her sentence to a suspended term of three and a half years and upheld her convictions for illegal entrepreneurship and tax evasion.

Today’s development follows a vote last week by the Azerbaijani parliament to approve a proposal to grant amnesty to thousands of prisoners.

Santos noted that at the OSCE PA’s 2015 Annual Session in Helsinki, the Assembly “condemn[ed] the continued persecution and imprisonment on politically motivated charges of journalists and human rights defenders in several OSCE participating States and express[ed] its concern at the continued misuse of tax and administrative legislation to justify these acts.”