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Three-Year Prison Term Of Jailed Opposition Leader In Azerbaijan Cut By Two Months

Azerbaijani opposition activist Gozal Bayramli insists that the banknotes were planted in her bag.

BAKU -- Azerbaijan's Supreme Court has reduced by two months the three-year prison term imposed on a prominent opposition leader who was jailed on cash-smuggling charges.

The court on November 14 said the sentence imposed on Gozal Bayramli, deputy chairwoman of the Popular Front Party (AXCP), was reduced after the formal charge against her was changed from smuggling to attempted smuggling.

Bayramli was arrested in May 2017 as she was returning to Azerbaijan from neighboring Georgia and charged with smuggling some $12,000 in undeclared cash across the border.

The Qazax district court in Azerbaijan's northwest on January 23 found Bayramli guilty of smuggling and sentenced her the same day, according to her lawyer, Elcin Sadiqov.

Bayramli has maintained her innocence, saying the case against her is politically motivated. She insists that the banknotes were planted in her bag.

Critics of longtime President Ilham Aliyev's government say authorities of the oil-rich former Soviet republic frequently seek to silence dissent by jailing reporters, human rights activists, and civil-society advocates without grounds.

Dozens of AXCP members have been arrested and some imprisoned in the last several years on what their supporters have called trumped-up charges.

Aliyev denies any rights abuses. He took over in 2003 shortly before the death of his father, Heydar Aliyev, a former KGB officer and communist-era leader who had ruled Azerbaijan since 1993