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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 20:33 GMT 21:33 UK
Azeri opposition leaders jailed
Images of Azeri clashes from Georgian TV station Rustavi-2
Opposition supporters clashed with riot police in Baku last October
Seven leading opposition figures in Azerbaijan have been jailed for up to five years over involvement in riots following last year's elections.

Opposition parties protested in the former Soviet republic over the conduct of the elections after Ilham Aliyev won the presidency in October 2003.

Two defendants were given five years. The others received shorter jail terms.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe expressed concern over the severity of the sentences.

But the organisation welcomed the end of the long-running trial as an opportunity for Azerbaijan to move towards developing political pluralism and democracy.

The BBC's Claire Doyle says that with most of the major opposition figures now in prison, it is very difficult to see how such a dialogue might be established.

Criticised

The charges arose from violent clashes which broke out in the immediate aftermath of the elections.

Mr Aliyev was declared the winner, replacing his late father as president in a ballot that was widely criticised by international observers.

A court in the capital, Baku, sentenced two leaders of the Musavat party, newspaper editor Rauf Arifoglu and deputy chairman Arif Hacili, to five years each.




SEE ALSO:
Azeri dynasty stays in power
16 Oct 03  |  Europe
Profile: Ilham Aliyev
15 Oct 03  |  Europe
Azerbaijan's 'royal' succession
04 Aug 03  |  Europe
Profile: Heydar Aliyev
21 Apr 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Azerbaijan
09 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Azerbaijan
09 Jul 03  |  Country profiles


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