BAKU -- The head of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan (AIP) has been jailed for 12 years after being convicted of trying to overthrow the government, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.
Movsum Samadov was among seven party members sentenced on October 7 by Baku's Court for Serious Crimes.
Rufulla Axundzadeh, the head of the party's branch in Astara, was jailed for 11 1/2 years, deputy chairman Vagif Abdullayev and party member Feramiz Abbasov were jailed for 11 years; and rank and file party members Firdovsi Mammadrzayev and Dayanat Samadov were given 10-year jail terms.
Zulfuqar Mikayilzadeh received an 11-year suspended sentence.
The seven were arrested in January after Samadov called on Azerbaijanis to put an end to what he called "the oppressive regime in the country." They were charged with plotting a terrorist act, illegal weapons possession, and attempting to seize power illegally.
They reject the charges and say they were persecuted for political reasons, for criticizing the government, and protesting the ban on girls wearing headscarves in schools.
As the verdicts were being read out, police used force to disperse dozens of AIP supporters and relatives of the defendants who had gathered outside the court, injuring several of them.
An RFE/RL correspondent filming the confrontation was hit on the head by police, but not seriously hurt.
RFE/RL reports that some 50 local residents, who watched the police intervention from their balconies and came down to protest, were themselves driven back by force.
Read more in Azeri here