Azerbaijan Police Raid US-Run Radio Station

Azerbaijan Police Raid US-Run Radio StationAzerbaijan Police Raid US-Run Radio Station

A US federal agency on Friday strongly condemned the raid and closure of the offices of a US-funded radio station in Azerbaijan’s capital by prosecutors and police.

Jeff Shell, the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a federal agency supervising US government-supported media, denounced the raid of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty offices in Baku as “an escalation of the Azeri government’s abusive attempt to intimidate independent journalists and repress free media.”

The BBG said in a statement that investigators from Azerbaijan’s state prosecutor’s office entered the RFE/RL bureau on Friday morning, accompanied by armed police officers. They searched the company safe, ransacked files and equipment, and ordered staff members to leave the building after holding them in a room for several hours without telephone or computer access. Several staff members later were summoned for questioning.

The Prosecutor General’s Office told The Associated Press that the search was conducted to investigate a “grave crime” but would not elaborate.

The station’s top reporter, Khadija Ismayilova, was jailed earlier this month pending a trial on charges of driving a man to suicide, which critics dismissed as an attempt to gag an influential journalist.

Ismayilova has remained in custody pending her trial, and could face a sentence of up to seven years in prison if convicted. Amnesty International has declared Ismayilova a prisoner of conscience, “detained solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression.”