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Controversial Exchange: Armenia Releases Azerbaijani Prisoner Accused of Murder in Swap for 32 POWs

Controversial Exchange: Armenia Releases Azerbaijani Prisoner Accused of Murder in Swap for 32 POWs

In a deeply sensitive and contentious exchange, Armenia has returned two Azerbaijani prisoners to Azerbaijan in exchange for the release of 32 Armenian prisoners of war (POWs), marking a significant but controversial diplomatic maneuver.

The two Azerbaijani nationals, Husein Akhundov and Aghshin Babirov, crossed the border into Armenia from Nakhijevan earlier this year and were involved in a violent murder resulting in the death of an Armenian citizen. Akhundov, on April 12, fatally shot Hayrapet Meliksetyan, 56, an Armenian security officer of the Zangezur copper-molybdenum combine, near the Shgharshik village of Kapan community. On June 21, Akhundov was sentenced to 20 years in prison. And just last week his sentence was increased to life imprisonment by the first instance court of Syunik region for this crime.

The incident unfolded when Akhundov and Babirov illegally entered Syunik Province from Nakhijevan, were apprehended by residents of Syunik's border villages, and faced legal consequences in Armenia. Babirov, charged with illegal border crossing, as well as transporting firearms and ammunition across the state border, received an 11-year prison sentence.

The tragedy deepened as details emerged from the General Prosecutor's Office, describing Akhundov's actions. Akhundov's motive was purportedly to steal Meliksetyan's belongings, including his phone and car, intending to cross into Iran. He callously fired fatal shots at Meliksetyan, subsequently posting a video on social media claiming responsibility for the murder and expressing hostile sentiments towards Armenians.

Azerbaijan demanded the immediate release of their detained soldiers while Armenia accused the Azerbaijani nationals of illegal border crossing and carrying firearms.

Armenian officials reported that the prisoners were treated in accordance with humanitarian standards, assuring they were provided with essentials and legal representation without complaints of mistreatment during their detention.

The exchange, viewed through the lens of justice and fairness, sparks heated debates. The core question revolves around whether the release of 32 Armenian POWs in exchange for the two Azerbaijani nationals involved in a fatal cross-border incident was a fair resolution, given the gravity of the crime committed on Armenian soil.

We would like to remind our readers that, according to the November 9, 2020 ceasefire agreement signed between Armenia, Russia, and Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan was obligated to return all prisoners of war captured during the conflict. Regrettably, Azerbaijan has chosen not to abide by the terms of the ceasefire agreement.


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