"This sentence is unjust and illegal," Ashurov said. "We plan to appeal the conviction and if we find no justice in Azerbaijan's judicial system, we will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg."

"There can be no greater honour than to be imprisoned for your ideals," Milli  proclaimed after being sentenced.

Officials have said that the conviction is not related to the pair's criticism of the government.

Some human rights advocates have said that the prosecution is an attempt to silence criticism of the government.

"The court's ruling is political. It is aimed at intimidating new media on the internet and preventing the distribution of alternative opinions," Emin Huseynov, director of the Baku-based Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety, said.

Ilham Aliyev, the president, succeeded his father six years ago.