BAKU -- A member of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AXCP), Mahammad Imanli, has been sentenced to one year in prison for breaking coronavirus measures, a charge he rejects as false, calling it politically motivated.
On December 1, Judge Mirheydar Zeynalov of the Sabuncu district court in Baku found Imanli guilty of failing to comply with coronavirus precautions and "spreading the disease."
Imanli rejected the court's findings saying he was sentenced "only because I am a member of the AXCP." A day earlier, a prosecutor at the trial asked the judge to sentence Imanli to 18 months in prison. Imanli has insisted that a police statement noting he was detained on July 20 was false.
According to him and his lawyers, he was detained on July 16 and kept in a police station for four days, during which time he was interrogated regarding his participation in unsanctioned rallies in Baku in support of the country’s armed forces amid an escalation of military tensions with neighboring Armenia.
Imanli is one of almost 50 AXCP members arrested in July after the rallies in support of the Azerbaijani Army. Investigators have said that, during the unsanctioned rallies in mid-July, AXCP activists clashed with police injuring some of them, upended private vehicles, and damaged parliament. Many of the activists who were detained were charged with damaging private property, attacking law enforcement officers, and disrupting public order. Dozens of AXCP members have been arrested, and some imprisoned, in recent years on what their supporters have called trumped-up charges. Opponents of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Western countries, and international human rights groups say his government has persistently persecuted critics, political foes, independent media outlets, and civic activists. Aliyev denies any rights abuses. He took power 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.