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Azerbaijan: stop asking us questions about jailed radio host

It looks like the government of Azerbaijan is getting a little tired of the global outrage over handing a radio host 7-1/2 years in the slammer, pretty much for asking tough questions about how that country’s government is run.

Apparently Azerbaijan’s first lady Mehriban Aliyeva thought her meeting with French President Francois Hollande last week would proceed hitch-free. But French TV journalist Élise Lucet buttonholed her after the ceremony to ask about the status of Khadija Ismayilova and another imprisoned reporter.

Do you think your country is a “land of tolerance”? Lucet asked.

“Of course it is,” Aliyeva responded.

But “you have many political prisoners in jail,” the journalist observed.

Khadija Ismayilova

Khadija Ismayilova

“It’s not true,” Aliyeva insisted.

“Do you know Leyla Yunus or Khadija Ismayilova? They’re in jail.”

Several members of what appeared to be Aliyeva’s secured team blocked Lucet’s access. “Be silent,” one said.

“We are in France,” the reporter shot back. “You know journalists can ask questions in France.”

Radio Rights WatchMeanwhile Azerbaijan’s Mission to the United Nations has condemned a UN statement criticizing Ismayilova’s conviction and imprisonment.

“It is very regretful that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights repeatedly calls for the release of the persons that found guilty by the court decisions,” the Mission says.

Here’s an excerpt from the statement from UN human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein:

“Ms. Ismayilova’s sentencing is just the latest example of the crackdown on independent voices in the country. Azerbaijani authorities have already jailed a number of other journalists, human rights defenders and activists, including Leyla and Arif Yunus, Intigam Aliyev, Anar Mammadli and Rasul Jafarov, on different questionable charges.”

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