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U.S. 'Disturbed' By Azerbaijani Lawyer's Prison Sentence

The United States said on April 23 that it is "disturbed" by the 7 1/2-year sentence handed down to Azerbaijani human rights lawyer Intiqam Aliyev and called for his release.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf made the statement a day after a Baku court convicted Aliyev of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, and abuse of office -- charges Harf called "questionable."

Aliyev denied guilt and said his sentence was politically motivated punishment for bringing more than 200 cases to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The human rights court is seen as a last resort for defendants across the former Soviet Union and elsewhere who believe they have been wrongly convicted by courts carrying out the will of the executive authorities.

Aliyev is one of several activists, journalists, and government critics to have been jailed in the past year in what rights groups call a growing crackdown under longtime President Ilham Aliyev. The two men are not related.

The U.S. statement called on Azerbaijan "to release Aliyev and others incarcerated in connection with exercising their fundamental freedoms."

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