Azerbaijan Jails Opposition Politician for Three Years

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An Azerbaijan court on Tuesday sentenced an opposition politician to three years in jail over hooliganism charges he claims are fabricated and politically motivated.

Mamed Ibragim, one of the leaders of the opposition Popular Front party, "rejects the charges as false and believes he is being punished for his political activity," his lawyer Yalchin Imanov, told AFP.

"We will appeal against the illegal verdict," Imanov said. "We have no trust in Azerbaijani justice, but we need to go through all the national courts before we take the case to the European Court of Human Rights."

Ibragim was arrested in September and charged with physically assaulting a former member of his Popular Front party.

Any form of dissent in Azerbaijan, an ex-Soviet oil-producing nation, is usually met with a tough government response.

Rights campaigners say the government has stepped up pressure on political opponents, critical journalists, and rights activists since strongman President Ilham Aliyev's re-election for a third term in 2013.

Aliyev took over in 2003 after the death of his father Heydar Aliyev, a former KGB officer and Communist-era leader who had ruled newly independent Azerbaijan with an iron fist since 1993.