BAKU – An activist of Azerbaijan's opposition Popular Front Party (AXCP) has been released from prison after completing a four-year sentence on charges he claimed were politically motivated.
Upon his release on the morning of August 18, Fuad Ahmadli told RFE/RL that his arrest was part of ongoing attacks by the authorities on AXCP members.
Asked about his time behind bars, Ahmadli said, “It wasn’t that difficult.” He added that he “felt proud” for coming through it.
Ahmadli was arrested in August 2016 and charged with stealing the personal data of clients of the mobile operator Azerfon, where he worked at the time.
The following year, the Baku Court for Serious Crimes tried and found him guilty of giving to a third party illegally obtained personal data from a mobile operator's clients.
"By handing down this unfair and ordered-from-above verdict, you are adding yourselves to history's dark pages," Ahmadli told the court after his verdict was announced on June 16, 2017.
Critics of Azerbaijan’s longtime President Ilham Aliyev's government say authorities in the oil-rich Caspian Sea state frequently seek to silence dissent by jailing opposition activists, journalists, and civil society advocates on trumped-up charges.
Dozens of activists from the AXCP were detained or arrested on administrative or criminal charges following a rally in Baku on July 14.
Late in the protest, a group of people briefly stormed into the parliament building before they were removed by police.
After that incident, prosecutors launched a widening criminal investigation against some alleged participants.
Critics claim that the case is part of an effort by the authorities to eliminate political dissent in Azerbaijan.