Oil rich Azerbaijan jails opposition figure for six years

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A court in Baku, Azerbaijan has sentenced a senior opposition activist to six years in jail on hooliganism charges, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Yadigar Sadigov, an advisor to the leadership of opposition party Musavat, was found guilty on Monday of allegedly beating up a disabled army veteran by a court in the southern city of Lankaran.

Opposition activists called the verdict politically motivated and Sadigov’s lawyer said the prosecution had failed to prove its case.

“Not one witness who appeared in court could remember where this supposed fight took place,” Khalid Bagirov said.

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Sadigov is the latest opposition figure to be jailed in what rights groups have decried as a continuing crackdown by Azerbaijan’s government on its critics in the wake of Ilham Aliyev’s re-election at polls in October.

Aliyev secured a third term with some 85 percent of the vote at October 9 polls slammed as flawed by OSCE observers to extend his family’s decades-long grip on power in the tightly-controlled ex-Soviet state.

Any sign of dissent usually meets a harsh reaction in the oil-rich nation and rights groups accused the authorities of jailing scores of opponents in the run-up to last year’s vote.

The 51-year-old Aliyev first took power in 2003 in a disputed election after the death of his father Heydar, a former KGB officer and Communist-era boss.