Thu Apr 16, 2015 1:34PM
Azerbaijani rights activist Rasul Jafarov (file photo)
Azerbaijani rights activist Rasul Jafarov (file photo)

A court in Azerbaijan has handed down six-and-a-half years of imprisonment to a leading human rights activist, in a move censured as politically motivated by his attorney.

Rasul Jafarov was convicted on Thursday by the court in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of power, AFP quoted his attorney, Fariz Namazly, as saying.

"We will appeal the illegal and politically motivated verdict," Namazly added.

The 30-year-old rights campaigner had helped arrange a number of events on human rights, including one dubbed as "Sing for Democracy," for which he used Baku's hosting of the Eurovision’s 2012 Song Contest to draw international attention to Azerbaijan's dismal human rights record.

Rights groups in the oil-rich ex-Soviet state say the Azeri government has intensified its repressive campaign against dissent since President Ilham Aliyev won a third term in office in 2013. The election was widely regarded as flawed by international observers.

Government officials often react quite harshly to any expression of dissent by taking severe measures against opposition figures and using bogus charges to imprison critics.

Aliyev, 53, first rose to power in 2003 following a defective election. He succeeded his father, Heydar Aliyev, a former KGB official and communist-era leader who had also resorted to repressive measures to rule the newly independent Azerbaijan since 1993.

MFB/KA/SS