The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan yesterday sentenced Party of Islam leader Alikram Aliev to 11 years of severe-regime imprisonment, and three other prominent party figures to 10 years each. The Court upheld the prosecution’s case — based in turn on the State Security Ministry’s investigation — that the defendants had cooperated with Iranian intelligence services, met with its representatives, agreed to work with Tehran "for the victory of Islam in Azerbaijan," collected political and economic information for Iran, and sent students there for instruction in both religion and subversion. The Party of Islam was said to have been tasked to create an Islamic Bank in Azerbaijan, penetrate government ministries, and interfere with the activities of U.S. oil companies. The defendants admitted to having received Iranian funds but only for charitable activities. They charged that the trial had been inspired by the U.S. and Israel as part of an anti-Iranian policy. Nine party leaders were arrested last fall, four of whom were subsequently released. (Turan, April 14) The sentence is likely to be assailed by Iran and to strain already uneasy relations between Baku and Tehran.
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