By Armen Zakarian and Karine Kalantarian
The Armenian authorities are keeping under tight wraps the identity of four persons they say were arrested this month on charges of spying for Azerbaijan.
The ministry of national security, which announced the news on Wednesday is refusing to divulge any details of the extraordinary criminal case. According to the ministry spokesman, Armenak Manukian, the names of the four Armenia citizens charged with high treason will be disclosed “soon.”
Justice Minister David Harutiunian claimed on Saturday that he is unaware of their identity and nature of activity. He said only that all of the accused have been given access to defense lawyers.
But leaders of Armenia’s two bar associations said they have no information as to whether any of their members represents interests of the espionage suspects. Harutiunian, however, explained that Armenian lawyers are not obliged to identify their clients.
Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani national security ministry challenged the credibility of the Wednesday statement by the Armenian security agency. The Baku newspaper “Zerkalo” quoted on Saturday ministry spokesman Araz Gurbanov as describing it as “yet another ridiculous hoax.”
“The Azerbaijani side defends its interests with the help of normal people who do not accept the expansionist and terrorist policy of the Armenian leadership directed against its own people,” Gurbanov said. “All those people are alive and in good health at the moment,” he added without elaborating.
The Azerbaijani authorities, for their part, claim to have arrested more than a hundred individuals of Armenian, Azerbaijani and other nationalities accused of “working for Armenian special services” over the past decade. Some of them have been jailed, according to “Zerkalo.”
No Armenian citizen has been tried and convicted of spying for Azerbaijan in Armenia since the outbreak of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.