SAKI, Azerbaijan -- The leader of Azerbaijan's opposition Republican Alternative (REAL) party has been released from prison after serving more than five years of his seven-year term.
A court of appeals in the northern city of Saki ruled on August 13 that Ilqar Mammadov's remaining prison term must be suspended.
The court also ruled that Mammadov has a two-year probation period during which he will not be allowed to leave the country.
Mammadov called the ruling "not a complete victory," saying that that he and his lawyers had demanded "a full acquittal."
In a statement, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland welcomed the court order to release Mammadov, saying that "political prisoners in Europe, innocent people should not be deprived of their liberty."
Mammadov was arrested in February 2013 and charged with helping organize riots in the town of Ismayilli, northwest of Baku. He was sentenced to 7 years in jail in March 2014.
The opposition leader has insisted that the case against him was politically motivated.
In April, the Republican Alternative opposition movement announced it was now a political party but said it will not seek formal registration by the state.
Rights groups and Western governments have urged Azerbaijani authorities to release Mammadov and other political prisoners in the oil-rich South Caucasus country for years, and criticized the former Soviet republic's government for persistent clampdowns targeting independent journalists and rights defenders.
President Ilham Aliyev, who has ruled the Caucasus nation of almost 10 million people with an iron fist since shortly before his father's death in 2003, has shrugged off the criticism.