TODAY.AZ / Politics

Azerbaijani appeals court upholds conviction of opposition activists

29 September 2006 [10:16] - TODAY.AZ
An appeals court on Thursday upheld the conviction of three Azerbaijani opposition youth activists on charges of attempting to stage a coup, but reduced a prison term for one of them.

The three members of the Yeni Fikir, or New Thought, youth group were arrested in the run-up to last November's disputed parliamentary elections and charged with attempting to forcefully seize power.

In July, a court in the capital, Baku, sentenced the group's leader, Ruslan Bashirli, to seven years in a maximum security prison. Bashirli's deputy, Ramin Tagiyev, was sentenced to four years and another deputy, Said Nuriyev, received a suspended sentence of five years.

Azerbaijan's Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the sentence but reduced Tagiyev's term by one year.

Bashirli and other convicts insisted on their innocence. "I don't consider myself guilty. I was arrested on political grounds," Bashirli told the court. He and others said they would appeal to the European Court for Human Rights.

Before his conviction in July, Bashirli told the trial that he had been beaten and offered money in a bid to persuade him to confess. The United States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe then voiced concern that Bashirli and others had not received a fair trial.

President Ilham Aliev's government maintained its grip on parliament in November's elections, which handed the ruling party a majority in the 125-seat legislature with the support of government-affiliated independent lawmakers.

Western observers criticized the polls as flawed, but the United States and European countries have not endorsed opposition demands for new elections, fearful of upsetting stability in the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation, which borders Iran. AP

/The International Herald Tribune/


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