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Azerbaijani Court Sends Opposition Leaders To Prison

Baku/Prague, 23 October (RFE/RL) -- A court in Azerbaijan yesterday sentenced seven opposition leaders to prison sentences of between 2 1/2 and five years, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported.

All seven defendants have been convicted of stirring public unrest in the days that followed the disputed presidential election in 2003. They have all denied the charges brought against them.

Among the defendants are three deputy chairmen of the Musavat (Liberty) party -- Rauf Arifoglu, Arif Hacili, and Ibrahim Ibrahimli.

Other defendants include Azerbaijan's Democratic Party General-Secretary Sardar Calaloglu; Umid (Hope) party Chairman Iqbal Agazade; Halq (People's) party leader Panah Huseynov; and Etimad Asadov, the chairman of the Karabakh War Veterans Association.

Their trial had been going on for nearly six months amid protests from rights groups, which blame President Ilham Aliyev for using the 16 October 2003 unrest as a pretext for cracking down on the opposition.

For more on the trials, see "Azerbaijan: Opposition Leaders Receive Prison Sentences"

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