A Georgian court has handed a six-year prison sentence to Azerbaijani doctor Farman Ceyranli, who claims that his arrest and trial on fraud charges were ordered by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
The conviction and sentence in Tbilisi City Court on February 8 marked the second high-profile case in which a defendant has accused Aliyev’s government of reaching into Georgia to target a critic.
Ceyranli, the director of the Lanset medical clinic in Tbilisi, was arrested in May 2017 and initially charged with financial fraud and performing illegal surgeries that led to several deaths. The latter charge was dropped during the trial, which started in July.
Ceyranli has maintained his innocence, contending that his case was politically motivated.
At a preliminary hearing in July, he said he was a “hostage and prisoner of Aliyev” and added, “I am a physician and have nothing to do with politics.”
“When patients come to my clinic I do not ask about their political views,” Ceyranli said at the time. “Georgia’s prosecutors are persecuting me on politically motivated charges ordered by Aliyev.”
Many Azerbaijani opposition activists, politicians, and journalists, who live in neighboring Georgia have been among Ceyranli’s patients, including Gozal Bayramli, deputy chairwoman of the opposition Popular Front Party (AXCP).
Bayramli was arrested in May as she was returning to Azerbaijan from Georgia and charged with attempting to smuggle undeclared cash across the border.
On January 23, Bayramli was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison. She and her supporters say her case was politically motivated.
Tbilisi has come under criticism over the fate of Azerbaijani journalist Afqan Muxtarli, who fled to Georgia with his wife in 2015 because they feared for their safety in connection with his reporting on suspected corruption in Aliyev’s circle.
Muxtarli went missing in Tbilisi in May 2017, and one day later Azerbaijani authorities said he was in custody in Baku on suspicion of smuggling and crossing the border illegally.
Muxtarli was found guilty of illegal border crossing and assaulting officials, and sentenced to six years in prison in January.
Muxtarli and his lawyers say he was abducted in Georgia and illegally brought into Azerbaijan. He told RFE/RL on February 8 that his trial was a “mockery” of justice.