BAKU -- A leading opposition politician in Azerbaijan has been sentenced to over three years in prison.
The Sabail District Court in Baku found Faiq Amirli, a member of the opposition Popular Front of Azerbaijan (AXCP) party, guilty of inciting religious hatred and violating the rights of citizens under the pretext of conducting religious rites.
Amirli was sentenced to three years and three months in prison on July 24.
Amirli, who is also the financial director of the daily Azadliq, pleaded not guilty.
His lawyers called the court’s ruling “absurd” and told RFE/RL that they will appeal it.
Amirli was arrested in August 2016. Investigators said he possessed books by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkish authorities blame for a failed coup in July 2016. Gulen denies any involvement.
Azerbaijani and international rights groups accuse Baku of using Turkey's crackdown on Gulen’s followers to harass critics of the Azerbaijani government.
Baku has voiced strong support for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following the failed coup.