Head of independent news agency in Azerbaijan arrested

A court in Azerbaijan has jailed the head of an independent news agency pending an investigation on tax evasion charges, a move the opposition denounced as an attack on the freedom of speech in the ex-Soviet nation.

The court in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, jailed Turan news agency director Mehman Aliyev for three months on Friday. He was arrested on Thursday night.

Tax authorities have accused Aliyev of failing to pay the equivalent of nearly $22,000 in taxes in 2014-2016. Turan has denied the charges.

International rights groups have repeatedly criticized the oil-rich Caspian nation for cracking down on independent media and opposition activists.

The opposition Musavat party and National Council movement criticized Aliyev's arrest as the latest attack on media freedom and called for his release.