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Armenian soldier captured in Azerbaijan may face life in prison

26 August 2020
A screenshot of a video of Gurgen Alaverdyan released by Azerbaijani authorities.

Gurgen Alaverdyan, an Armenian soldier who crossed from Nagorno-Karabakh into Azerbaijan’s Goranboy District has been accused of espionage and other crimes by Azerbaijani authorities. The Armenian government claims he had gotten lost due to bad weather. 

The Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan stated on Tuesday that Alaverdyan, 31, ‘commander of the sabotage-intelligence group of the Armenian Armed Forces’, has been indicted under five articles of Azerbaijan’s Criminal code. 

According to the report, in the course of the investigation, there were ‘reasonable suspicions’ that Alaverdyan, ‘participated in illegal armed formations created in the occupied Kalbajar region, committed attacks on military personnel, enterprises, departments, organizations or individuals of the Republic of Azerbaijan’.

He has been charged with, in addition to other crimes, espionage, the creation of illegal armed groups, and arms smuggling — if convicted he faces up to life in prison. 

On Wednesday, Shushan Stepanyan, the chief spokesperson of Armenian Ministry of Defence, called the case against Alaverdyan an ‘absurdity’ and the charges ‘nonsense’. 

Confession

‘I declare that I, senior lieutenant Alaverdyan Gurgen Vladimiri, was born on 14.08.1989 in Martuni City of the Syunik Province of Armenia.’ 

So begins a supposed confession video from Alaverdyan, released today by the Azerbaijani authorities. 

During the roughly 4-minute long video, Alaverydyan appears alone in front of an Azerbaijani flag and seems to be reading from a pre-prepared statement. He admits to planned ‘sabotage’, and denies that he was ‘inhumanly treated, tortured, or pressured’. He also adds that he has ‘no complaints’ about the conditions he is staying in. 

He also states his supposed desire to ‘stay in the Republic of Azerbaijan’ and voices his intention to serve the country with his ‘knowledge and skills’.  

He concludes by praising Azerbaijan’s military capabilities. 

‘I also realized’, he says in the video. ‘That the Armenian army has no chance to defeat Azerbaijan’s armed forces’. 

This is the second incident in several months of an Armenian citizen in Azerbaijani custody being shown in supposed video confession, during which they denounce their country of origin and praise Azerbaijan.

In July, Narek Sardaryan, a shepherd from Armenia’s Syunik province who was reported missing, appeared in a video released by Nakhichevan State Television, during which he stated his intention to acquire Azerbaijani citizenship because of the ‘violence and injustice’ in Armenia. 

[Read more on OC Media: Armenia’s missing shepherd reappears in Azerbaijan]

‘Gross violation of Alaverdyan’s rights’ 

The Armenian Ministry of Defence denied allegations of sabotage on 23 August, saying that Alaverdyan, who had been captured earlier that day, was ‘confused’ due to difficult weather conditions and ‘got lost’. 

In an interview with Azatutyun, Shushan Stepanyan, the chief spokesperson for the Ministry, urged Azerbaijan not to ‘distort reality’ and said that ‘an internal investigation is underway’. 

[Read more on OC Media: Azerbaijan ‘captures Armenian saboteur’]

Arman Totayan, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender, stated that Alaverydan’s treatment in Azerbaijan as shown in a recent video was a ‘gross violation’ of his rights.  

In the video, Gurgen Alaverdyan is handcuffed and hooded and a voice can be heard jeering at him, insulting his nationality, and using homophobic slurs. 

Totayan accused Azerbaijan of being in violation of the Geneva Convention. 

‘The Geneva Convention guarantees the right of prisoners of war to respect for honour and dignity which rules out any type of humiliation’, he said, adding that he had contacted international human rights organisations about the matter.

Zara Amatuni, a representative of the International Committee of Red Cross in Armenia, told Azatutyun on Monday that the Committee is already in dialogue with Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities on the issue of Alaverdyan’s arrest.

When asked when the representatives of the Red Cross will have the opportunity to visit Alaverdyan, Amatuni said that the ‘timeline for certain situations is not set by any legislation or procedures’ and that the main issue was the ‘urgency’ of the matter, though the ‘circumstances’ also had to be ‘taken into account’. 

For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

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