Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) said on Wednesday that it has arrested two persons, including a retired army officer, on charges of spying for Azerbaijan.
One of them was identified as retired Lieutenant-Colonel Gevorg Hayrapetian. “In 2007 he was demobilized from the Armenian Armed Forces for a blatant violation of military and disciplinary rules,” the NSS said in a statement.
The statement added that Hayrapetian has already been charged with high treason for “cooperating with Azerbaijani special services.” A corresponding article of Armenia’s Criminal Code carries between 10 and 15 years’ imprisonment.
According to the NSS, the other detainee is a “foreign national” who liaised between Hayrapetian and Azerbaijani intelligence. The security agency did not identify the suspect or give any details of the alleged espionage.
The Azerbaijani government was quick to dismiss the announced arrests as a “cheap Armenian provocation.” “We don’t know that person,” a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Ministry of National Security told Day.az news service, referring to Hayrapetian. “That deliberately disseminated information has a provocative character.”
Both Azerbaijan and Armenia have occasionally arrested and prosecuted individuals for allegedly spying for each other since the early 1990s. In one such case, a retired Russian army officer who had fought on the Armenian side during the 1992-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh was arrested in late 2006 and subsequently convicted of passing Armenian “state secrets” on to Azerbaijan. The ethnic Tatar man, Rustem Valiakhmetov, initially confessed to the charges but retracted his pre-trial testimony in court, saying that it had been given under duress.
And in June 2005, a Russian-born Armenian citizen, Andrey Maziev, was likewise convicted of high treason and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Maziev pleaded guilty to the charges, unlike four other ethnic Russians who received lengthy jail sentences on similar charges in January 2004.