A court in Azerbaijan has sentenced a grandson of the oil-rich former Soviet republic's deputy prime minister to six years in prison for his role in a high-speed traffic accident that left two people dead and two others injured.
A grave-crimes court in Baku on December 18 handed down the sentence to Nail Allahverdiyev, a grandson of Deputy Prime Minister Ali Hasanov, after convicting him of vehicular manslaughter in the August accident in the Caucasus state's capital.
Police and prosecutors said Allahverdiyev, 23, was behind the wheel of a speeding Mercedes SUV at around 9 p.m. on August 3 when it collided with another vehicle and careered off the road, striking a group of pedestrians and bursting into flames after striking a barrier.
One of the pedestrians died of his injuries, as did a passenger in the Mercedes driven by Allahverdiyev. Two Turkish citizens struck by the vehicle were also injured.
A friend of Allahverdiyev's who was driving another car that was involved in the accident, Mirmahammat Ismayilov, was previously jailed for one month after being found guilty of reckless driving in connection with the fatal incident.
Prosecutors said the two men were racing their cars at the time of the incident, an allegation they denied.
Prosecutors had asked that Allahverdiyev be sentenced to seven years in prison, but the court cleared him of a second charge of fleeing the scene.
Allahverdiyev said in court that he believed the passenger in his car, Mehdi Aliyev, died of heart failure prior to the accident. He claimed he began speeding after Aliyev began experiencing what appeared to be chest pains.
Authorities in Azerbaijan and other former Soviet republics frequently come under popular fire for what many see as their reluctance to crack down on excesses on the road -- and elsewhere in public -- committed by members of the ruling elite and their relatives.
Police and prosecutors said in their statement following Allahverdiyev's arrest in August that "despite serious warnings by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, instances of abuse of office and committing crimes by state officials and members of their families are still taking place."
"The strictest measures will be undertaken toward state officials and members of their families who ignore the known demands by the head of state [and] openly demonstrate disrespect to society and harshly violate laws and regulations," it said.
Critics accuse Aliyev himself of involvement in corruption. Investigative journalists have found that the Azerbaijani president's family makes frequent use of offshore companies to hide its wealth and mask the ways it gains shares in Azerbaijan's most lucrative businesses.
Aliyev and his government have repeatedly denied the corruption allegations.