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Three Armenian Prisoners Freed By Azerbaijan


ARMENIA -- People stand at a Russian military plane with some of Armenian captives upon its arrival at a military airport outside Yerevan, December 14, 2020

Azerbaijan freed and repatriated on Tuesday three more Armenians who were taken prisoner during or shortly after last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

They were reportedly flown to Yerevan by a Russian military plane late in the evening. All three men are soldiers, according to Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian’s office.

In a statement, the office said their release was made possible by joint efforts of Russia, France and the United States and what it called broader international pressure exerted on Baku.

“We hope that this process will have a logical continuation and quick conclusion,” added the statement.

Sixty-nine Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians were freed earlier this year and last December in prisoner exchanges arranged by Russian peacekeepers stationed in Karabakh. More than 100 others are believed to remain in Azerbaijani captivity.

Yerevan insists on their immediate and unconditional release, citing the terms of a Russian-mediated truce agreement.

Baku claims that they are not covered by the agreement because they were captured after it took effect on November 10. Azerbaijani officials have branded them as “terrorists.”

The European Union last week called on Azerbaijan to free all remaining Armenian prisoners “as soon as possible” and “regardless of the circumstances of their arrest.” The U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group called for their release earlier in April.

Meanwhile, two Yerevan-based human rights lawyers said on Tuesday that 19 Armenian POWs and civilian captives were murdered by Azerbaijani servicemen after their capture. In a joint statement, they said they have filed relevant lawsuits at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The lawyers, Siranush Papian and Artak Zeynalian, have also appealed to the Strasbourg court on behalf of the families of other prisoners believed to remain alive.

Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Aman Tatoyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, for his part, that his office has monitored Azerbaijani social media accounts and found 17 videos of Azerbaijani soldiers beheading Armenian prisoners or murdering them otherwise.

Tatoyan said the office has also collected about 100 Azerbaijani video clips depicting the torture and degrading treatment of other captives. He said it will submit the video material to international human rights bodies.

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