“A case that highlighted Azerbaijan’s concern over the influence of neighboring Iran.”
BAKU, Azerbaijan – Azerbaijan’s security agency said Saturday that the 15 people convicted this week of treason and sedition had passed information on US, British and Israeli activities in the ex-Soviet republic to Iranian intelligence.
The Court for Grave Crimes on Monday sentenced members of the “Said Group” to lengthy prison sentences in a case that highlighted Azerbaijan’s concern over the influence of neighboring Iran.
In a statement released Saturday, the National Security Ministry revealed new details about the group, which allegedly passed to Iranian agents details on Western embassies, companies, pipeline operations and employees operating in Azerbaijan in 2005-2006.
Two members of the group met repeatedly with Iranian agents in Tehran and other cities where they received training, equipment, maps and instructions, more than $10,000 in funding, the ministry said.
The 15 were arrested in January on suspicion of crimes including plotting to forcefully seize power, treason, organizing a criminal group, possession of weapons and drugs, and counterfeiting.
Said Dadashbeyli, the alleged leader who worked at a US-Azerbaijani drilling company, sought Iranian support for a plot to seize power in Azerbaijan and establish Islamic law in the oil-rich country. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, along with two other group members, while the rest received sentences ranging from two years to 13, the court said.
Dadashbeyli’s lawyer said the charges were unfounded.
Oil-rich, predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan has increasingly been caught in a tug-of-war for influence between the secular, democratic West and its large southern neighbor.
Rumblings of Shiite political Islam have been particularly noticeable in the more conservative regions that border Iran, and the secular government has displayed concern over Iranian influence and Islamic extremism.