On 21 and 22 April 2016, barrister Amal Clooney visited Washington DC to call for the release of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Through her courageous reporting, Khadija exposed evidence of widespread corruption by the President of Azerbaijan. Following an unfair trial she was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison on sham charges and has been in prison for over 16 months so far. Khadija is represented by Mrs Clooney and Nani Jansen before the European Court of Human Rights. The visit to Washington DC followed the submission of observations on the admissibility and merits of Ismayilova v. Azerbaijan (Application no. 30778/15) to the European Court on 14 March 2016; judgment in the case is expected in the coming months.
Mrs Clooney met with representatives from the White House and the State Department, members of the House of Representatives and Senate from both parties, and the Azerbaijani Ambassador Elin Suleymanov.
Following these meetings, on 26 April, the State Department called for Khadija’s release and Senator Cardin raised her case in the Senate. In addition Senator McCain lent his support to efforts to secure her release, Congressman McGovern stated that he is “[p]roud to join Mrs Clooney in push to [free Khadija], imprisoned [Azerbaijan] journalist who dared to stand up to power” and Senator Kirk published that he is “[j]oining Amal Clooney to urge for release of Khadija Ismayilova– a journalist wrongfully imprisoned in Azerbaijan.” Discussions following these meetings are ongoing. In addition, Mrs Clooney has been invited to testify at a Congressional hearing scheduled in September to discuss the crackdown on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.
Mrs Clooney thanks NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, ARTICLE 19, PEN International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, who have called for Khadija’s immediate and unconditional release and intervened in her case before the European Court of Human Rights.