BAKU — A court in Azerbaijan has rejected a journalist’s appeal after he was imprisoned on charges of high treason, which he and rights groups have said were politically motivated.
The Baku Court of Appeal on February 15 upheld a lower court’s decision to convict Polad Aslanov and sentence him to 16 years in prison.
His wife told RFE/RL that the ruling would be appealed in the Supreme Court.
Gulmira Aslanova said that the journalist has been on hunger strike for 15 days in protest of his sentencing, is complaining of kidney and stomach pains, and is not receiving medical care.
Aslanov, the editor of the xeberman.com and press-az.com online news portals, is critical of the authorities in a country where Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says many media outlets have been silenced or have had to relocate abroad, the main independent websites are blocked, and at least two other journalists are currently in prison.
Aslanov was working on a story allegedly implicating members of the State Security Service in extortion when he was arrested in June 2019.
In November 2020, he was convicted on what RSF and the Committee to Protect Journalists called “trumped-up” charges of high treason for allegedly providing information to Iran.
Azerbaijan is ranked 168th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.