BAKU (Azatutyun) — An appeals court in Azerbaijan confirmed on Monday, January 15, a 15-year prison sentence given to an ethnic Armenian from Nagorno-Karabakh who was arrested by Azerbaijani security services last summer 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.
During his trial, Khachatryan repeatedly denied any involvement in the alleged killings of 25 Azerbaijanis from the Karabakh village of Meshali captured by Karabakh Armenian forces in December 1991. He had lived in another village close to Meshali during and after the 1991-1999 war.
A military court in Baku sentenced him to 15 years in prison on November 7. Khachatryan, who refused to be represented by an Azerbaijani government-appointed lawyer during the trial, appealed against the verdict. The appeal was predictably rejected by the higher Azerbaijani court.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry condemned the “sham trial” late last year. It demanded the immediate release of Khachatryan and other “Armenian POWs and civilians still held hostage in Baku.”
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.