The head of an election watchdog in Azerbaijan, Anar Mammadli, and his two associates have been sentenced to jail for tax evasion, illegal business activities, and using their office to falsify election results.
On May 26, Mammadli, the chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center, was sentenced to five and-a-half years in prison.
The center's executive director, Bashir Suleymanli, received a three and-a-half year prison term.
The director of the Union for International Cooperation of Volunteers, Elnur Mammadov, received a suspended two-year sentence.
Mammadli's organization monitored elections in Azerbaijan last autumn and exposed widespread irregularities and fraud during balloting and vote counting.
Mammadli's supporters say the charges against him and his associates are politically motivated.
Earlier, the OSCE, the EU and U.S. officials expressed concerns over Mammadli's arrest in December.
Two United Nations special rapporteurs have called for the immediate release of Anar Mammadli and for all charges against him and his colleagues to be dropped. “The fact that independent United Nations experts view the charges as being fabricated highlights that the present legal procedure aims at punishing human rights defenders such as Anar Mammadli and his colleagues due to their work, not at ensuring the rule of law,” Florian Irminger, Head of Advocacy of the Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), said when the rapporteurs statement was issued.