The U.S. Embassy in Baku has expressed concern over the sentencing of Anar Mammadli, the chairman of the country's Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center.
In a statement on May 30, the U.S. Embassy called the charges against Mammadli and two of his associates "highly questionable" and called the convictions "a major setback to Azerbaijan’s democratic development."
On May 26, Mammadli was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for tax evasion, illegal business activities, and using his office to falsify election results, while the center's executive director, Basir Suleymanli, received a 3 1/2-year prison term on the same charges.
Another co-defendant, Elnur Mammadov, the director of the Union for International Cooperation of Volunteers, received a two-year suspended sentence.
Mammadli's organization monitored elections in Azerbaijan last autumn and exposed widespread irregularities and fraud during balloting and vote-counting.