U.N. human rights experts have criticized a court in Azerbaijan for what they say were "politically motivated" convictions of a prominent rights defender and her husband.

A court in Baku on Aug. 13 sentenced Leyla Yunus to 8½ years in prison on charges of fraud, tax evasion and illegal business activities. Her husband Arif Yunus was given a 7-year sentence for fraud.

Six experts linked to the U.N.'s Human Rights Council in Geneva said in a statement Thursday that the convictions were a sign of "the continuing repression of independent civil society in Azerbaijan."

The Yunuses both pleaded not guilty during the trial. They have suffered serious health problems in custody since their arrest a year ago, and the experts urged Azerbaijan authorities to provide proper medical care.