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Azerbaijani Opposition Activist Jailed On Drug Charge

BAKU -- An Azerbaijani opposition activist who advocated antigovernment protests via Facebook has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail for drug possession, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Cabbar Savalan, 20, is a member of the youth wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. He was arrested in February when police said he was carrying 0.17 grams of drugs.

Human rights activists say he was targeted by officials because of his political and social activities.

Savalan was active in opposition gatherings prior to his detention and he also posted messages on his Facebook page criticizing the authorities.

He was detained after advocating holding an antigovernment "Day of Rage" in Azerbaijan, modeled on the protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

The prosecutor in the Sumqayit court -- about 30 kilometers north of Baku -- had asked for a three-year sentence.

Police briefly detained six activists gathered outside the courtroom who protested the verdict.

Natiq Adilov, head of the APFP press service, told RFE/RL he was detained while filming the activists, even though he had a press card.

"A police official...tried to take away my camera," Adilov said. "He was kicking me in order to prevent me from filming."

Other journalists seeking to cover the trial, including RFE/RL's Esmira Javadova, were harassed by plainclothes police. Javadova's video camera and other documents were briefly confiscated.