A higher court in Nagorno-Karabakh has rejected the appeals by two Azerbaijani nationals who were convicted and jailed last year on charges of committing a number of crimes against the unrecognized ethnic Armenian republic.
Dilham Askerov and Shahbaz Quliyev were sentenced to life and 22 years in prison, respectively, in a 2014 trial that was not recognized by Azerbaijan as legal.
Askerov, 54, and Quliyev, 46, had been charged with murder, espionage, illegal border crossing, and illegal weapons possession.
Authorities in Stepanakert say the two were members of a group of saboteurs that crossed into the region controlled by ethnic Armenian forces in July last year and killed a teenager, an officer and wounded a woman. The third member of the group was allegedly killed while resisting arrest.
Under the local law, the two Azerbaijani citizens will have a month to appeal their verdicts and sentences at the Court of Cassation, the highest in Nagorno-Karabakh’s three-tier judicial system.
The lawyers of the two said that their clients were dissatisfied with the appeals court verdicts. They said they would consider appealing them at the highest court.
Last month authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh refused to consider the release of Askerov and Quliyev after an appeal for a “humanitarian gesture” made by United States Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland during her tour of the South Caucasus.
Meanwhile, officials in Azerbaijan said on Tuesday that the case of an Armenian accused of being a saboteur has been sent to the court in Baku.
Azerbaijani authorities claim Arsen Baghdasarian was a member of an Armenian “sabotage-reconnaissance” group and was taken prisoner after a failed attempt by the group to carry out subversive activities in the direction of Aghdam on December 26.
The Armenian has been charged with a number of crimes, including being a member of a criminal organization, committing a murder attempt, organizing an explosion or arson directed against Azerbaijan’s defenses or economic security.
Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh deny Baghdasarian was a member of any subversive group acting against Azerbaijan.