BAKU -- An opposition politician in Azerbaijan has been sentenced to more than four years in prison on a hooliganism charge which he and his supporters call "bogus."
A court in Baku on September 3 found Tofiq Yaqublu, deputy chairman of the opposition Musavat Party and a senior politician in the National Council of Democratic Forces, guilty and sentenced him to 4 years and three months in prison.
A day earlier, Yaqublu started a hunger strike after Judge Nariman Mehdiyev deprived the politician of his last statement in court. In the statement, which Yaqublu began to read before being halted by the judge, he questioned the legality of the case against him, calling it politically motivated.
Yaqublu was arrested in March after a car hit his vehicle in Baku and the driver of this car started heated debates with the politician.
Investigators accused Yaqublu of "using a wrench to conduct an act of hooliganism" against the driver, which the politician has denied.
Yaqublu and human rights groups say the car accident most likely was staged to be used for the "bogus" case.
Yaqublu frequently criticizes the government and authoritarian President Ilham Aliyev.
Critics of 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.
Aliyev has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003, taking over from his father, Heydar Aliyev, who served as president for a decade.
Azerbaijani Opposition Politician Sentenced To Over Four Years In Prison On 'Hooliganism' Charge