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Azerbaijan: Is It Time To Consider Sanctions?

Azerbaijan: Is It Time To Consider Sanctions? by

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.”

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry representatives did not respond to’s request for comment, but in the days following the announcement of Ismayilova’s verdict, officials in Baku called on foreign governments to stop meddling in Azerbaijan’s affairs.

Baku’s response, rights activists say, confirms that quiet diplomacy cannot dissuade Azerbaijani leaders from pressing ahead with a crackdown that already has resulted in the jailing of dozens of individuals as political prisoners, including Ismayilova.

“Given the unprecedented crackdown in Azerbaijan, it should simply be no more business as usual for any of Azerbaijan’s international partners,” said Jane Buchanan, associate director for Europe and Central...