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Azerbaijan Sentences Artsakh Resident Vagif Khachatryan to 15 Years in Unjust Case

Azerbaijani Court Sentences Kidnapped ICRC Evacuee from Nagorno-Karabakh to 15 Years in Prison

The unjust trial of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) resident Vagif Khachatryan, abducted by Azerbaijani forces earlier this year, reached its climax today as the Baku military court sentenced him to 15 years in prison. The ruling was delivered by presiding judge Zeinal Aghaev, amid strong objections from international observers who questioned the fairness of the proceedings.

The case, described as a "judicial farce" by critics, unfolded in Baku where Khachatryan faced charges brought forth by the state prosecutor Mughadas Sultanov. The prosecutor accused Khachatryan of serious crimes, including “genocide” and “crimes against peace”, allegedly committed during the first Nagorno-Karabakh war in the early 1990s. According to Azerbaijani law, the maximum punishment for these offenses is life imprisonment. However, due to Khachatryan's age—68 years old—life imprisonment was not an option, leading the prosecutor to demand a 15-year prison sentence instead.

During the trial, Khachatryan maintained his innocence, vehemently denying any involvement in the alleged crimes. In a passionate plea to the court, he pleaded, "I am an innocent person, I did not participate there, I was not there. I was arrested, I was not a terrorist, I was a Badara villager, I was arrested as a Badara citizen, a resident of Badara." In his last speech, Vagif Khachatyan tried to convince the Baku court one last time that he has nothing to do with everything he is accused of. Khachatryan also challenged the court to use special devices to verify his claims that he was not lying, that he was not in Meshali, that he did not kill anyone. "There are such devices that determine a person's truthfulness and lying. I want them to test me with those testifying machines that I was not there."

The trial, marred by accusations of unfairness and lacking international legal standards, raised concerns about the treatment of Khachatryan, who was abducted by Azerbaijani forces while crossing the Lachin corridor into Armenia, under the protection of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Despite international outcry and objections from human rights organizations, Khachatryan was not released but instead faced a trial in Baku.

A total of 59 individuals were considered "victims" in this case, all of whom testified against Khachatryan, affirming his alleged involvement in the crimes. However, Khachatryan's supporters argued that these accusations were baseless and part of a fabricated case against him.

The verdict has sparked outrage among international human rights organizations and activists. Anahit Manasyan, a prominent advocate for human rights, condemned the ruling, stating, "Vagif Khachatryan, abducted by Azerbaijani forces in the Lachin Corridor, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Baku, without observing the international legal standards and guarantees related to human rights. International Human Rights organizations should respond immediately."

As the controversy surrounding this case deepens, the international community is calling for adherence to fair trial standards and urging immediate action to ensure justice and human rights prevail in this troubling situation.


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