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Azerbaijani soldier who crossed into Armenia charged with murder

19 April 2023
The Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum mine, where Meliksetyan was found dead. Photo: Aliq Media

Armenia’s prosecutor’s office has charged one of two Azerbaijani soldiers captured in Armenia with murdering a security guard at the Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Prosecutor General said that Huseyn Akhundov shot Hayrapet Meliksetyan, 56, on 12 April, stole his phone, and then recorded a video on that phone, later posting it on his social media. 

In the video, which spread on Armenian and Azerbaijani social media after Akhundov’s capture, the soldier says that he had ‘shed Armenian blood’, claiming to have ‘beheaded’ Armenians. 

The porescutor’s statement alleges that Akhundov also attempted to steal the guard’s car, but failed and continued by foot, adding that the soldier had planned to cross into Iran from Armenia. 

A day after the murder, Akhundov was detained near the village of Achanan, Syunik; about 25 kilometres from Shgharshik, where he allegedly killed Meliksetyan with several gunshots. 

[Read more: Second Azerbaijani soldier captured in Armenia]

On Tuesday, the Prosecutor’s Office amended the charges against the soldier, adding murder to the earlier charges of illegal border-crossing and illegally carrying weapons across the border. 

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‘Deeply troubling’ footage

Huseyn Akhundov and Agshin Babirov were both detained within Armenia last week after entering the country from Azerbaijan’s autonomous exclave of Nakhchivan. Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry claimed that the soldiers had crossed the border earlier that week, after getting lost due to poor visibility. 

The soldiers were first seen in Syunik region, around 15 kilometres from the border with Nakhchivan, on 9 April. Agshin Babirov was captured by people from the village of Ashotavan the following day. 

Akhundov was found and detained on 14 April later near the village of Achanan, 40 kilometres from the border with Nakhchivan. At the time of Akhundov’s capture, local people claimed that he was responsible for the murder of Meliketsyan, but official statements underscored that this was not yet supported by evidence. 

The soldier’s civilian captors physically abused him and later posted footage of this on social media, drawing condemnation from Armenian and Azerbaijani commentators, as well as international organisations. 

On 17 April, the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE issued a statement describing the footage as ‘deeply troubling’ and calling for the incident to be investigated immediately. 

The same day, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister, Jeyhun Bayramov, raised the issue of the Azerbaijani prisoners during a meeting with Louis Bono, the US Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations, and stressed the importance of their immediate release.

Read in Azerbaijani on AbzasMedia.