Editor of Azerbaijan's independent newspaper sentenced to 9 years in jail for bribery

The editor of an independent Azerbaijani newspaper has been sentenced to nine years in prison for bribery in a trial dismissed by his supporters and rights group as politically motivated.

A court in the Caspian nation's capital of Baku on Tuesday found Avaz Zeynalli, editor of the Khural newspaper, guilty of bribery, extortion, contempt of court and tax evasion.

Zeynalli told the court that he is being persecuted for his journalism.

Charges against the editor were brought following complaints by a deputy in the ruling New Azerbaijan Party. That deputy is now under arrest and suspected of extorting $1 million from a university rector.

Azerbaijani journalists, activists and politicians have petitioned the country's president to release Zeynalli, arguing that he is being punished for his paper's critical reporting.