SAKI, Azerbaijan -- A court in Azerbaijan has sentenced a journalist known for criticizing the government to nine years in prison after a trial his lawyer contends was politically motivated.
The Court for Serious Crimes in the northern city of Saki found Elcin Ismayilli guilty of extortion and abuse of office and sentenced him on September 18.
Ismayilli was arrested in February after a Culture and Tourism Department official claimed the journalist tried to extort money from him.
Ismayilli denies guilt.
His lawyer, Elcin Sadiqov, says the case is politically motivated and also contends that Ismayilli should not have been charged with abuse of office because he holds no office.
Western governments and international human rights groups say President Ilham Aliyev's government has sought to maintain power by persistently persecuting independent media outlets, journalists, and opposition politicians and activists.
Aliyev, who has ruled the oil-producing South Caucasus country of nearly 10 million people since shortly before his father's death in 2003, has shrugged off the criticism.