28 February, 2019 00:13

Azerbaijan Sentences Karen Ghazaryan to 20 Years in Prison

By Ani Paitjan

The Ganja Military Criminal Court of Azerbaijan sentenced Armenian citizen Karen Ghazaryan to 20 years in prison for "organizing sabotage and terrorist acts in the territory of Azerbaijan."

On July 15, the Azerbaijani media began to spread a photo of Ghazaryan, a 34-year-old resident of the border village of Berdavan in Armenia’s northeast province of Tavush. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense announced that it had prevented an Armenian sabotage attempt, capturing one of those involved. The Armenian side denied such an attempt.

Azerbaijan attempted to presented the case as “a prevention of a reconnaissance group of the Armenian Armed Forces on the border.”

Armenia’s Defense Ministry denied that Ghazaryan was serving in the military.

Ghazaryan’s closed-door trial began on November 6, 2018. At the same time, the Russian Interfax news agency wrote that Azerbaijan offered to exchange Ghazaryan for two Azeri captives in Karabakh who are serving sentences for murder. However, the Armenia’s Ministry of Defense denied that it had received such a proposal.

In November 2018, Karen Ghazaryan’s relatives protested what they deemed as government’s inadequate response to the situation by closing the Armenia-Georgia interstate highway. They demanded that the government consider exchanging prisoners with Azerbaijan.

“The situation seems simple, but in reality it is not so. Two citizens of Azerbaijan are convicted in Arstakh [Karabakh], one for 20 years, the other for life because they killed two citizens of Artsakh,” responded Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. He added that the families of the murdered would not agree to hand the criminals to the Azerbaijani side. 

The borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia have been closed since the 1994 ceasefire with regular skirmishes taking place regularly on the border. The question as to how did Ghazaryan end up in Azerbaijan remains unanswered.

The two prominent theories are either Ghazaryan got lost and accidentally crossed into Azerbaijan or he was taken by Azerbaijanis.

Since 2010, this is at least the eighth Armenian to wonder across the border from the northeast province of Tavush. Only two of these seven were not charged with sabotage and have been successfully repatriated: an old lady and a young man Arsen Khojoyan. Of the other five: 77-years old Mamikon Khojoyan (who was also accused of 'sabotage') died shortly after return, two others died in custody, two, including Ghazaryan, are now in custody.  

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CivilNet’s film crew visited Berdavan village in Tavush province on July 21, 2017.

Berdavan is almost tied to Azerbaijan's border. How could Karen Ghazaryan be found beyond the border? Various versions are circulating in the village. The International Committee of the Red Cross did not disclose information about Ghazaryan, and stated that the dialogue with relevant structures of Azerbaijan and Armenia are ongoing.