Former Nagorno-Karabakh Official Detained in Syunik for Espionage

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By Arshaluys Barseghyan

Armenia has detained a former Nagorno-Karabakh official on espionage charges following his move to Armenia months after the region’s surrender.

News of Sargis Galstyan’s arrest surfaced on Wednesday, April 3, with Armenia’s Investigative Committee announcing the charges.

They stated that Galstyan, who previously had held several official positions in Nagorno-Karabakh, was arrested whilst moving from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

Armenian media reported Galstyan was arrested in Syunik.

While not divulging their identities, the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed on Wednesday that they had escorted two people from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia on 29 March. Media in Armenia have speculated that the two were Galstyan and his wife, Margarita Shahnazaryan.

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In October of last year, Tatul Hakobyan, a journalist from Armenia, reported that Azerbaijan had appointed Galstyan as Stepanakert’s “commandant.” Hakobyan additionally reported that Galstyan had previously held several positions in Nagorno-Karabakh’s former government — including in its National Security Service — and had enjoyed good relations with former presidents Bako Sahakyan and Samvel Shahramanyan.

Galstyan was also appointed deputy head of the presidential staff by Shahramanyan’s decree in September.

With all but a handful of the region’s Armenian population fleeing to Armenia following Nagorno-Karabakh’s surrender to Azerbaijan in September of last year, Galstyan and his wife were one of the few Armenians who remained in the region. The territories previously inhabited by over 100,000 Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh have since been largely deserted.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Nagorno-Karabakh’s former Human Rights Defender Gegham Stepanyan stated that the charges brought against Galstyan could be because of his rumored appointment as commandant in Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan, his decision to stay in the region following its surrender, or his posts on social media.

Stepanyan told RFE/RL in December that Baku sponsored content created by the few of the region’s remaining population to influence Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians to return.

He added that Galstyan’s wife had been posting videos from the deserted region stating it was safe.

However, Galstyan’s nephew, Davit Galstyan, the leader of Nagorno-Karabakh’s opposition Ardarutyun faction, has denied that his uncle was appointed as a commandant. He suggested that he stayed in the region to help other Armenians who remained.

(This article originally appeared in OC Media on April 6.)

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