Azerbaijan sentences youth activist to 10 years

A court in Azerbaijan has handed a 10-year prison sentence to a youth activist who was convicted on heroin possession charges in a verdict that Amnesty International is denouncing as politically motivated.

Bayram Mammadov had pleaded not guilty to the charges, describing them as punishment for his having sprayed graffiti on a statue of Azerbaijan's former president.

Amnesty International condemned the sentence issued Thursday as a "shameless attempt by the Azerbaijani authorities to crush dissent out of existence."

The human rights group says Mammadov was tortured into confessing. It plans to launch a petition calling for the immediate release of both him and fellow activist Giyas Ibrahimov, who also received a 10-year drug sentence.

International rights groups have repeatedly criticized Azerbaijan for cracking down on independent media and opposition activists.