Vagif Khachatryan, at right, during his trial

Karabakh Armenian Convicted at Sham Trial in Azerbaijan


By Ruzanna Stepanian

BAKU (Azatutyun) — A military court in Baku sentenced an ethnic Armenian from Nagorno-Karabakh to 15 years in prison on November 7, three months after he was arrested by Azerbaijani security services during his aborted medical evacuation to Armenia.

The 68-year-old Vagif Khachatryan was among Karabakh patients escorted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Armenian hospitals for urgent treatment. He was detained at an Azerbaijani checkpoint in the Lachin corridor and then charged with killing and deporting Karabakh’s ethnic Azerbaijani residents at the beginning of the first Armenian-Azerbaijani war.

Azerbaijani authorities specifically implicated Khachatryan in the alleged killings of 25 Azerbaijanis from the Karabakh village of Meshali captured by Karabakh Armenian forces in December 1991. He lived in another village close to Meshali during and after the 1991-1999 war.

Khachatryan, who had been due to undergo a heart surgery in Yerevan, repeatedly denied the accusations during his trial that began on October 13. He said, in particular, that he was held in an Azerbaijani prison during the capture of the village.

“I’m an innocent person,” Khachatryan said in his concluding remarks made shortly after the announcement of the verdict in the case. The verdict mirrored the punishment demanded by an Azerbaijani prosecutor.

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Khachatryan refused to be represented by an Azerbaijani government-appointed lawyer at the beginning of the trial. He defended himself during the subsequent court hearings.

Prior to the trial, the Karabakh Armenian was allowed to call his daughters based in Armenia and send them letters through the ICRC.

“He didn’t ask anything from us,” one of the three daughters, Venera, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on November 7. “He only asked us to take care of ourselves.”

The Armenian Foreign Ministry condemned Khachatryan’s “sham trial” last month. It insisted that Khachatryan was arrested and prosecuted “in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”

“Armenian POWs and civilians still held hostage in Baku should be released,” said a ministry spokeswoman.

They include eight former political and military leaders of Karabakh who were arrested at the Azerbaijani checkpoint during the mass exodus of the region’s ethnic Armenian population resulting from Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 military offensive. They are facing various grave accusations rejected by the Armenian government as well as current Karabakh officials.

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