In a step closer to totalitarianism, the government in ex-soviet Azerbaijan has imprisoned another journalist not in line with official views of the establishment that praises the oil-rich country as “an example of tolerance.”

According to the Associated Press, editor of the minority Talysh Sado Novruzali Mammadov was sentenced to10-years in prison for “treason.” The agency reports that “[p]rosecutors accused [Mammadov and the administrator of the newspaper, Elman Guliyev] of Talysh nationalism and undermining Azerbaijan’s statehood. The Talysh live in the south of the former Soviet republic and have close cultural ties to neighboring Iran. Guliyev acknowledged in court that the paper had received $1,000 per month from Talysh organizations in Iran.”

The conviction of indigenous Talysh activists comes a week after a Christian priest was arrested in Azerbaijan. According to Baptist Standard, “Hamid Shabanov, a Baptist pastor in Aliabad, Azerbaijan, was arrested June 20 [2008].”

Azerbaijan’s ironic self-image of “heaven of tolerance” is dimming day by day, especially that oppression in the Muslim country has shifted from being exclusively anti-Armenian. Editor of the now-banned Real Azerbaijan Eynulla Fatullayev, who had indirectly challenged Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian rhetoric, is serving an eleven-year sentence for charges of defamation, terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred and tax evasion. Emin Husseinov, director of the Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety, was badly beaten last week in Azerbaijan. The Institute for Reporter Freedom and Safety was founded by Idrak Abassov, the independent Azeri journalist who confirmed for a British publication a few years ago that the medieval Armenian cemetery of Djulfa had disappeared in Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave.

While arrests in Azerbaijan in the name of anti-Armenianism have received little coverage in the West due to the sensitive conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh, the ongoing oppression in Azerbaijan against the Talysh and other minorities suggests that the fascist nationalism is not simply a reaction to losing the 1990s’ war to Armenia.

But as Azerbaijan pumps a lot of oil in the face of a $4/gallon gas crisis in the United States, democracy may be the last thing America would care about in Baku.