Famous Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova was sentenced seven and a half years in jail for fraud, dodging taxes and abuse of her position, prior to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s scheduled September 1 visit to the country’s capital, Baku.
Ismayilova was believed to be a renowned investigative reporter for the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, where her work had focused on businesses and offshore bank accounts allegedly linked to the family of President Ilham Aliyev and on human rights abuses in the country.
The 39 years old journalist has been imprisoned since December.
Human rights organisation Amnesty International has argued that the trial was very much likely politically motivated.
The human rights organisation added that Ismayilova is a prisoner of conscience and that all of the charges against her were trumped up to prevent her corruption investigations from continuing.
"We disagree with the verdict and plan to appeal it. The sentencing is not justified and has been pre-ordered," Ismayilova defence lawyer Fariz Khamazly told Reuters.
Two leading human rights activists were jailed last month on similar charges.
A prominent human rights activist in Azerbaijan, Leyla Yunus, has been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for fraud and tax evasion along with her husband, Arif Yunus, who faces seven years on similar charges.
They have been placed in prison since their arrest almost a year ago.
Ilham Aliyev has been the president of Azerbaijan since 2003 and has been accused by rights advocates to heavily crackdown on activists who were considered of political opponents, charges the government denies.
According to an official statement on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website, Lavrov is set to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov, on Tuesday.