An investigative journalist was sentenced to six years in jail by an Azerbaijani court on Friday on smuggling and related charges in a case that has been condemned by human rights groups.
Afgan Mukhtarli, 44, has always claimed he was kidnapped after disappearing from the Georgian capital Tbilisi in May last year, only to later reappear under arrest in the Azerbaijan capital Baku.
The Azerbaijani authorities charged him with crossing the border illegally while attempting to smuggle cash. Mr. Mukhtarli insists that the money was planted on him.
His lawyer, Nemat Kerimli, dismissed the prosecution case as politically motivated and “very weak” as he related the verdict to AFP.
Mr. Mukhtarli gave a final address in court, saying the trial was related to his exposure of corruption as well as his political activities in the country, according to a second lawyer Elchin Sadykhly.
“I have always opposed the corruption of power, I have written about President (Ilham Aliyev) and his family. One of my investigations was devoted to theft in the army and revealed that a company belonging to the Aliyev family appropriated money intended for food for the military,” Mr. Sadykhly quoted Mr. Mukhtarli as saying.
“Everyone knows that I organise protests in front of the Azerbaijani embassies in Georgia and other countries,” he said in court, according to the lawyer.
Oil-rich Azerbaijan has repeatedly been accused by rights groups of using spurious charges to crack down on dissent against Mr. Aliyev’s authoritarian regime.
Azerbaijan ranks 162nd out of 180 countries on the 2017 press freedom index published by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
Mr. Aliyev took control of the country after the death of his father Heydar Aliyev in 2003, a former KGB officer and communist-era leader who ruled for a decade.
Last month a court sentenced opposition journalist Aziz Orujov to six years in jail for what it said were economic crimes.