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18 May 2024

Azerbaijan jails activist on weapons charge


A court in Azerbaijan jailed a promiment activist for one and half years on weapons and drugs charges in the ex-Soviet state's latest case against alleged radicals.

The court in the city of Sumgayit said the deputy chairman of the banned Islamic Party, Arif Ganiyev, was jailed after police found a pistol, ammunition and 20 grammes of heroin when they arrested him.

In October last year, the Islamic Party's leader and five other activists were also jailed for 10 to 12 years for allegedly trying to overthrow the government

The party was outlawed in the 1990s and its then leaders were imprisoned on charges of conspiring with the intelligence services in neighbouring Iran to oust the secular authorities in Baku.

Azerbaijan's security services last week also arrested two men with alleged indirect links to Iranian intelligence whom they accused of planning attacks on the Israeli ambassador to Baku and other prominent foreigners.

Energy-rich Azerbaijan is a mainly Shiite Muslim country, but after decades of Soviet rule it emerged as one of the most secular states in the Islamic world and has become an important supplier of oil to Europe and an ally in the NATO-led Afghanistan campaign.

The authorities have sought to regulate religious practices in an attempt to prevent the rise of Islamic extremism, but Muslim critics have accused them of persecuting devout believers.