A court in Baku sentenced Ishkhan Sargsian and Vladimir Rafaelian to 19 and 18 years in prison respectively on a string of charges, including terrorism and illegal entry into Azerbaijan.
They were among six servicemen captured last May while fortifying an Armenian army post on the border with Azerbaijan. The incident occurred days after Azerbaijani forces advanced a few kilometers into Armenian territory at several sections of the long border.
Baku freed four of those soldiers in June but pressed charges against Sargsian and Rafaelian.
Yerevan rejects the charges as illegal and baseless, saying that the soldiers were taken prisoner on the Armenian side of the frontier in Armenia’s Gegharkunik province.
A spokesperson for the Armenian government’s representative to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Monday that it will file more appeals with the Strasbourg-based tribunal in connection with the sentencing of the soldiers.
Siranush Sahakian, a lawyer representing the Armenian POWs, said the ECHR could order their immediate release if it concludes that they did not receive a fair trial. She said the Azerbaijani authorities fabricated grave accusations against these and other prisoners in order to “cover up their war crimes” committed during the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Baku has admitted holding 35 Armenian POWs and three civilian captives. Most of them have also been given lengthy jail terms in trial condemned by Yerevan as a travesty of justice.
The Armenian authorities and human rights lawyers estimate the real number of Armenian prisoners in Azerbaijan at more than 80. Yerevan regularly demands their unconditional release, saying that they are held in breach of a Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the six-week war. Baku says the ceasefire agreement does not cover them because they were captured after it took effect in November 2020.