Armenia’s government is doing its best to bring back home a resident of an Armenian border village who has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in Azerbaijan, Justice Minister Artak Zeynalian said on Wednesday.
The Azerbaijani military detained the 34-year-old Karen Ghazarian in still unclear circumstances in July. It claimed to have captured him while thwarting an Armenian incursion into Azerbaijani territory.
The Armenian Defense Ministry categorically denied the alleged incursion attempt, insisting that Ghazarian is a civilian resident of Berdavan, a village in the northern Tavush province located just a few kilometers from the Azerbaijani border. It said he has a history of mental disease and had never served in the Armenian army because of that.
On February 27, a court in the Azerbaijani city of Ganja convicted Ghazarian of plotting “terrorist attacks” and “sabotage” in Azerbaijan and sentenced him to 20 years’ imprisonment following a short trial reportedly held in closed session.
The Armenian government strongly condemned the verdict and again demanded Ghazarian’s immediate release.
Zeynalian accused Baku of illegally keeping Ghazarian in jail on bogus charges when he was asked about the captive’s fate during the government’s question-and-answer session in the Armenian parliament.
“Representatives of Karen Ghazarian have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights,” replied the minister. “That appeal is now being considered, … and the Republic of Armenia will be involved [in the legal action] as a third party.”
“Besides, the government is using all instruments and means to secure Karen Ghazarian’s life. At the same time everything is done to bring him back to the homeland,” added Zeynalian.
Another Armenian man, Zaven Karapetian, is also being held captive in Azerbaijan. Karapetian was detained in June 2014, with Baku similarly claiming to have thwarted an Armenian incursion. Yerevan insisted that Karapetian is a civilian resident of Vanadzor, an Armenian city around 130 kilometers from the border section which he crossed for still unknown reasons.
Three residents of other Tavush villages strayed into Azerbaijan in 2014. Two of them were branded Armenian “saboteurs” by the authorities in Baku and died shortly afterwards.