Azerbaijan transfers jailed opposition figure to house arrest

BAKU (Reuters) - A prominent Azerbaijani economist and opposition politician who has been imprisoned since last July while awaiting trial was moved to house arrest on Monday.

Gubad Ibadoghlu, head of the small Democracy and Welfare Party and a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics at the time of his arrest, was detained last year under a law on counterfeit currency after police said they found $40,000 at an apartment registered in his name.

Ibadoghlu, 52, has denied the charge.

His lawyer, Bahruz Bayramov, said on Monday the decision to move him to house arrest was based on his poor health.

Speaking outside the courthouse in Baku, Ibadoghlu said he intended to fight the criminal charges until the end.

"Today's court decision cannot be regarded as a complete achievement of freedom," Ibadoghlu told reporters. "The unfounded charges against me have not yet been dropped".

Ibadoghlu's party is not represented in the parliament of Azerbaijan, a tightly controlled country in the southern Caucasus that clamps down hard on dissent.

In addition to Ibadoghlu, Azerbaijan has detained a string of independent reporters since late last year. Several are now facing trial on charges unrelated to journalistic activity, such as smuggling.

(Reporting by Nailia Bagirova; Writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)