Europe's top security organization says Azerbaijan's jailing of a prominent journalist is an example of officials using repressive laws aimed at "criminalizing journalism and silencing critical voices."
A spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also called the eight-and-a-half-year sentence given Eynulla Fatullayev the "culmination of a [government] campaign to silence" the journalist.
Fatullayev was sentenced Wednesday on charges of making terrorism threats and inciting national hatred. The charges stem from a story he published listing targets in Azerbaijan that Iran could attack, if the United States attacks the Islamic republic.
Local news reports say the court found Fatullayev's article contained the threat of terrorism, after several government officials wrote letters to prosecutors saying they felt threatened by the story.
Fatullayev is already serving a separate 30-month prison term following conviction on charges of defaming Azerbaijan's armed forces.
This grew out of a published interview in which an ethnic Armenian leader in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region described a massacre of Armenians by Azerbaijani soldiers in the 1990s.
European leaders, Western diplomats and international rights groups have strongly criticized the government of Azerbaijani President Ilham Alliyev for suppressing media freedoms in the former Soviet republic.