By Emil Danielyan
A court in Baku sentenced on Monday a former Azerbaijani prisoner of war to seven years in jail for collaborating with the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians and “systematically” harassing fellow Azerbaijani servicemen during his two-year captivity in the 1990s.
According to Azerbaijani press reports, the court found Nadir Mahmudov guilty of high treason, describing him as a brutal prison guard appointed by Karabakh’s “separatist regime” to oversee other POWs held in Stepanakert during and in the immediate aftermath of the war. He was convicted of regularly beating and humiliating them for even the slightest violation of the detention regime.
Mahmudov was reportedly taken prisoner by advancing Karabakh Armenian forces in Azerbaijan’s Fizuli district southeast of the disputed territory in October 1993 and released in an Armenian-Azerbaijani prisoner exchange two years later. Azerbaijani prosecutors claim that he voluntarily agreed to cooperate with his Armenians captors by helping them enforce order in the detention site and forcing fellow prisoners to keep it immaculately clean and tidy. Mahmudov also allegedly spied on the Azerbaijani POWs and provided relevant information to Karabakh security officials.
The defendant pleaded not guilty to the treason charges but admitted mistreating some of his comrades. “Yes, I hit two or three Azerbaijani prisoners who refused to keep the place clean,” the Baku daily “Ekho” quoted him saying in the court. “Because of their behavior the Armenians would beat all of the other prisoners.”
The leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has not officially reacted to the Azerbaijani charges stemming from the former soldier’s trial. But the authorities in Stepanakert have always said that they strictly adhere to international conventions on POWs. Earlier this year they unilaterally released an Azerbaijani serviceman captured in a skirmish near Karabakh. The soldier was seriously wounded in the firefight and underwent successful surgery in a Karabakh military hospital.
POWs were routinely mistreated by both conflicting parties during the 1991-94 war. Virtually all of them are believed to have returned home since the end of fierce fighting nine years ago.
Soldiers from both sides continue to be taken prisoner and subsequently freed along the line of contact around Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Their periodical exchanges are arranged by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the International Committee of Red Cross.