KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- A court in Tajikistan has sentenced prominent journalist Hairullo Mirsaidov to 12 years in prison.
The court in the northern city of Khujand found Mirsaidov guilty of embezzling and misusing state funds, and false reporting to police, and sentenced him on July 11.
Mirsaidov was arrested in his native city of Khujand in December and charged with embezzlement, forgery, false reporting to police, and inciting ethnic and religious hatred.
Mirsaidov pleaded not guilty and said the case against him was retaliation for his critical reporting of government corruption.
His lawyers called the verdict "unfair," and said they will appeal it.
Mirsaidov is an independent journalist and a former correspondent of Asia-Plus and Germany's Deutsche Welle radio.
He is also the leader of the Tajik national KVN comedy team, a stand-up comedy competition that originated among university students in the Soviet Union and is still popular in many post-Soviet states.
His case has drawn international attention, with London-based Amnesty International describing him as "a prisoner of conscience who is being punished solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression."
In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists said journalists like Mirsaidov should be "recognized for the important work they do, not locked up on bogus charges."
Weeks before his arrest in December, Mirsaidov published an open letter to President Emomali Rahmon, Prosecutor-General Yusuf Rahmon, and Sughd region Governor Abdurahmon Qodiri asking them to crack down on alleged corrupt local officials.