BAKU (Reuters) - A prominent critic of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has been jailed for two months, in a ruling his lawyer said was aimed at silencing him before next month’s presidential election.
Parviz Gashimly, a journalist, human rights activist and member of the Popular Front opposition party was arrested on Monday for illegal weapons possession after police raided his apartment and said they found firearms.
A Baku court late on Wednesday ordered he be held in pre-trial detention for two months. That means Gashimly, who has written critical articles about Aliyev, will be in jail during the run-up to an October 9 election where the president is expected to win a third term.
“Parviz does not agree with the charges and links his arrest to his professional and human rights activities,” Gashimly’s lawyer, Elchin Sadikhov, said.
Rights groups accuse Aliyev, in power since 2003, of curbing dissent and freedom of speech in Azerbaijan, an oil-rich former Soviet republic positioned between Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Its strategic location and role as a transit route for U.S. troops to reach Afghanistan have cushioned Azerbaijan from Western criticism, rights activists say.
Azerbaijan dismisses that and says its 9 million citizens enjoy full democratic freedoms.
Reporting by Lada Evgrashina; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Gabriela Baczynska and Robin Pomeroy