Azerbaijan Jails Opposition Activist for 8 Years


A court in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan has sentenced an activist of the opposition People's Front party to eight years in jail for disobeying police, a charge he denounced as politically motivated.

Zeynal Bagirzada "was jailed on Wednesday for eight years," the activist's brother Yashar Bagirsoy told AFP on Thursday, adding: "He insists that he is being persecuted because of his political activism."

Gezial Bayramly, deputy head of the People's Front, said: "The verdict is politically motivated, you bet."

He described Bagirzada as "one of the most uncompromising fighters for democracy in Nakhichevan", referring to Azerbaijan's exclave wedged between Turkey, Iran and Armenia.

Bagirzada was arrested in November in Nakhichevan after he scuffled with state employees.

Any dissent in tightly-controlled Azerbaijan is usually met with a tough government response.

Rights groups say the government of the oil-rich republic has stepped up pressure on opponents since strongman President Ilham Aliyev's re-election for a third term in 2013.

Aliyev took over in 2003 after the death of his father Heydar Aliyev, a former KGB officer and Communist-era leader who had ruled newly independent Azerbaijan with an iron fist since 1993.

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