A Baku court has sentenced five defendants to long prison terms for beating a journalist to death. The attack is believed to be a retribution for the reporter's criticism of a football player on Facebook.
The five men received prison terms ranging from nine to 13 years, Azerbaijan media reported on Friday.
According to the prosecutors, the group attacked the reporter and activist Rasim Aliyev last August over his Facebook post about the local football player Javid Huseynov.
In the post, Aliyev criticized Huseynov, calling him "immoral" and "ill-bred." The footballer allegedly waved Turkish flag during a game between his Gabala team and the Cypriote Apollo in Baku, and then reportedly made a vulgar gesture when a Greek journalist challenged him.
Huseynov phoned Aliyev after his post went online, asking him to publish a correction, according to a report by the Russian news agency Interfax that cited a preliminary probe into the incident. After talking to Huseynov, Aliyev was said to have received another call, this time from Huseynov's cousin, Elshan Ismayilov.
Interfax reported that Ismayilov, also a football player, asked the reporter for a personal meeting. After Aliyev agreed, Ismayilov gathered a group of men who assaulted the journalist in Baku, causing severe internal injuries. They then fled the scene.
Aliyev was hospitalized and underwent surgery, giving an interview about the incident from his hospital bed. However, he passed away several days after the attack.
Ismayilov was sentenced to the longest sentence of 13 years over the incident. However, neither he nor any of the other defendants pleaded guilty to Aliyev's murder, according to the Azerbaijani APA agency.