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Azerbaijan journalist Khadija Ismayilova jailed Leading Azerbaijan journalist Khadija Ismayilova was this week sentenced to seven and a half years in jail for embezzlement and tax evasion. The award-winning investigative reporter focused most of her work on businesses and offshore bank accounts allegedly linked to the family of President Ilham Aliyev. Human rights organisations have complained that the trial was politically motivated. Two prominent activists were jailed last month on similar charges. Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif were given jail terms of eight and a half years and seven years, respectively. Ismayilova delivered a defiant closing statement in Baku before her conviction, saying a lengthy jail term would not crush her spirit. She said the case against her is politically motivated and intended to end her investigations into corruption at the highest levels of government. “I might be in prison, but the work will continue,” she said, according to remarks prepared for delivery. The court did not allow Ismayilova to read her statement in full. Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence Ismayilova to nine years in prison on charges of libel, tax evasion, illegal business activity and abuse of power. The sentence has been condemned by human rights activists. “This was yet another unfair trial relying on fabricated charges,” said Amnesty International’s Denis Krivosheev. “The government has stepped up its brutal crackdown on political activists, journalists, human rights defenders - indeed anyone who dares to publicly raise a critical voice.” Several other journalists and activists have been imprisoned in Azerbaijan in what has been widely seen as an effort to stifle dissent. Ismayilova’s statement to the court described the government of President Ilham Aliyev as a “repression machine” and denounced what she called “the presidential family’s stolen money stored in offshore accounts, their abuse of state deals and contracts with offshore companies and groups, and of evading taxes”. She also voiced confidence that “real journalists and mindful citizens” would continue denouncing high-level corruption in the oil-producing former Soviet republic. Ismayilova said she and like-minded independent journalists did important work to “expose corruption and lawlessness”. “We wrote, informed the community, even if the price for it was arrest and blackmail ... I am still happy that I fulfilled my job,” she said.