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Page last updated at 17:08 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Azeri bloggers given prison terms

The donkey clip was a satire on press freedom

A court in Azerbaijan has handed down prison terms to two bloggers who posted a video of a donkey seen as satirising the government.

Adnan Hajizade was given two years and Emin Milli two-and-a-half years after they were found guilty of hooliganism linked to a scuffle in a cafe.

They maintain they were arrested and convicted because of their online criticism of the authorities.

But officials deny the case was related to the bloggers' anti-government views.

The authorities say the two were arrested in the course of a simple criminal investigation.

The donkey is seen in the video to praise the benefits of living in Azerbaijan and to congratulate the government on its positive attitude towards donkeys.

Anger

Adnan Hajizade's lawyer, Isakhan Ashurov, said his client was charged for political reasons and that he had not been involved in violence.

Civil society organisations in Azerbaijan have expressed anger at the sentences.

Emin Huseynov, director of the Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety, said the court's decision was political.

"It is aimed at intimidating new media on the internet and preventing the distribution of alternative opinions," he said.

Human rights groups and western governments have frequently called for an end to restrictions on the media and free speech in Azerbaijan.

Mr Hajizade and Mr Milli plan to appeal against their convictions.



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