President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has accused a Labour TD of insulting his country.

Mr Aliyev denounced Ennis TD Michael McNamara during a hearing of a Strasbourg-based human rights assembly, accusing him of repeatedly insulting Azerbaijan and of adopting a biased approach to the country.

During a sharp exchange in the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, Mr McNamara had challenged President Aliyev over alleged human rights abuses in his country.

"Amnesty International states that there are 19 prisoners of conscience in your jails, President Aliyev," he said during a hearing.

He also raised issues regarding other individuals whose detention in Azerbaijan had been found by the European Court of Human Rights as being unlawful.

Mr McNamara asked the president if the allegations diminished his legitimacy as six-month rotating chair of the Council of Europe's committee of ministers, and if he would release political prisoners.

In a sharply worded reply, President Aliyev accused Mr McNamara of insulting Azerbaijan and of asking "political" questions on behalf of another entity who wanted to "attack" his country.

"First of all, there are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan. All of what Mr McNamara has said is based on false information or his biased approach to our country.

"Not for the first, he is trying to insult Azerbaijan, but without any visible success.

"Unfortunately, Azerbaijan is subject to deliberate provocations. We know the source and we know the reason.

"It has nothing to do with human rights and democracy. It is political.

"The question Mr McNamara read from his piece of paper was probably given to him by someone who is interested in attacking Azerbaijan," he told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The Clare TD responded that he wrote his own speeches.

The president then said that if Mr McNamara wanted "an open discussion, we can find another place for it".

He went on to accuse the Labour TD, who is part of the Oireachtas delegation to the parliamentary assembly, of using "false information, slander and rumours".

"He is trying to mislead the opinion of the Assembly by repeating that false information. There are no political prisoners. Azerbaijan is a member of the European Court of Human Rights. All issues relating to prisoners can be addressed there.

"We respect the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Therefore, once again, the attempts to attack our country are absolutely groundless. They will have no result," he said.

The Council of Europe is a human rights organisation comprising 47 members in Europe and the Caucuses. 

All members have signed the European Convention on Human Rights.