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Opposition Journalist in Azerbaijan Given Extra 8 Year Prison Term

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A court in Azerbaijan has sentenced a journalist to 8 1/2 years in prison on charges of making terrorism threats and inciting national hatred.

Local and Western news reports say the charges stem from a published report in July by the journalist, Eynulla Fatullayev. The report listed targets in Azerbaijan that Iran could attack, if the United States attacks the Islamic republic.

Azerbaijan's Turan news agency says the court found the article contained the threat of terrorism, after several government officials wrote letters to prosecutors saying they felt threatened by the story. Reports say the court also decided to confiscate 23 computers from two newspapers Fatullayev had founded.

Defense lawyers and opposition leaders have argued that charges against the journalist are politically motivated and stem from his vocal opposition to the authoritarian rule of President Ilham Aliyev.

Fatullayev is already serving a separate 30 month prison term for a conviction of defaming Azerbaijan's armed forces.

That charge 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 Aliyev government for suppressing freedom of the news media in the former Soviet republic.

Some information for this report provided by AFP.

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