On Tuesday, two young bloggers were sentenced to prison -- one for two-and-a-half years, the other for two years -- on the ridiculous charge of hooliganism. The whole thing is a sham -- driven by political motives, but it is not surprising.
The bloggers, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, have been jailed in Baku since last summer -- in an effort by the government of Azerbaijan to silence those who criticize the policies of Ilham Aliyev - the president.
Adnan and Emin were arrested on the evening of July 8 after having dinner with some friends at a Baku restaurant. During dinner, witnesses describe how two thugs came up to Adnan and Emin and started beating them. Afterward, when the bloggers went to police to report the crime, it was they, not the thugs, who were arrested.
Tuesday's verdict sends a strong message that the government of Azerbaijan is frightened of any dissent or criticism and will use any means to attempt to intimidate and control its people. It also further signals that the Azeri government has no intention of honoring international agreements it has signed to ensure the people of Azerbaijan have the right to express themselves. In the past, Azerbaijan has jailed a number of journalists -- and several are still behind bars.
Since Azerbaijan is an oil-rich fiefdom, the West has treaded carefully in responding to this very undemocratic behavior by the Azeri government.
The Azeri government must be strongly condemned by the democracies of the world that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.