updated 7/23/2007 6:06:07 PM ET 2007-07-23T22:06:07

An Azerbaijani journalist has gone on a hunger strike to protest his prison sentence and stitched up his mouth to strengthen his demand, a media freedom activist said Monday.

Faramaz Allahverdiyev, a reporter from the opposition Nota Bene newspaper, sewed up his mouth when he went on a hunger strike last week, said Emin Huseynov, who heads the Institute for Freedom and Security of Reporters.

Huseynov told The Associated Press that he learned about Allahverdiyev’s move from other prisoners.

Justice Ministry’s spokesman Rafiq Ramazanov said that Allahverdiyev went on a hunger strike Sunday, but added that he was unaware of him stitching up his mouth.

Allahverdiyev was sentenced to two years in prison in January on charges of slandering the interior minister. The Organization or Security and Cooperation in Europe, a top trans-Atlantic democracy and security body, criticized the verdict as another blow to media freedom in the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation.

Independent media and opposition parties in Azerbaijan have come under increasing pressure from its authoritarian leadership.

Azerbaijan is ruled by President Ilham Aliev, who succeeded his father, Geidar — a former KGB general who had been in power for a decade — in a 2003 election that was criticized by foreign observers and dismissed as fraudulent by the opposition.

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