By Karine Kalantarian
A Russian-born citizen of Armenia was sentenced on Tuesday to twelve years in prison on charges of spying for Azerbaijan and helping its security services plot an attempt on President Robert Kocharian’s life.
A Yerevan court convicted Andrey Maziev of high treason and terrorism, endorsing prosecutors’ claims that the aviation engineer secretly collaborated with the Azerbaijani intelligence for the past five years. Maziev pleaded guilty to the charges both during the pre-trial investigation and the court proceedings.
“Maziev committed a particularly severe crime against the security of our country by helping to organize an attempt on the president’s life,” Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian, who personally represented the prosecution in the court, told reporters. “He was therefore given a deserved punishment.”
The prosecutors claim that the 44-year-old ethnic Russian who worked at Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport was recruited by officers of the Azerbaijani Ministry of National Security in December 1999 and regularly met them until his arrest last February. They say he briefed them on the political situation in Armenia and was paid a total of $2,500 for that.
More importantly, Maziev is alleged to have provided the Azerbaijanis with information about the regular movements and location of Kocharian’s aircraft as well as details of security arrangements made during his departure from and arrival in Armenia. Armenian law-enforcement authorities say the information was needed for an assassination bid against Kocharian.
However, it remains unclear how they think Azerbaijani special forces could have carried out the alleged conspiracy. The prosecution’s indictment read out by Hovsepian said nothing about that. Besides, Maziev said during the trial that Azerbaijani officers never explicitly told him that they want to assassinate the Armenian leader.
The Armenian prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for one of those officers identified as Faik Shamilev. Hovsepian claimed that Azerbaijan must arrest and hand over Shamilev to the Armenian investigators under “international conventions.”
But that is highly unlikely to happen. Azerbaijani officials have already shrugged off Yerevan’s demands.
Maziev’s imprisonment is the second espionage case involving Armenian nationals reported in less than two years. In January 2004, four ethnic Russian residents of the southeastern town of Yeghegnadzor were given lengthy prison sentences on similar charges which they strongly denied. It was the first time that Armenian citizens were jailed for allegedly spying for their country’s arch-foe.
(Photolur photo: Andrey Maziev.)