A court in Azerbaijan has freed the husband of a prominent rights defender on health grounds.

Arif Yunus and his wife, Leyla Yunus, were given prison sentences of seven years and 8 ½ years, respectively, after being convicted in August of fraud and tax evasion.

International rights groups have condemned the case against them, seen as punishment for criticizing the human rights record of the oil-rich former Soviet state.

Both Yunuses have suffered serious health problems in custody since their arrest in the summer of 2014.

The court agreed Thursday to release 60-year-old Arif Yunus because of concerns about his health. He told the court that since Nov. 6 he has been on a hunger strike and has refused to take his medicine to demand medical treatment for his wife.