STEPANAKERT — Two Azerbaijani citizens, who have been accused of committing acts of sabotage, including the killing of an Armenian teen, after illegally crossing the border into Karabakh last summer, went on trial in Stepanakert on October 27.

Shahbaz Quliyev, 46, and Dilham Askerov, 54, are charged with murder, espionage, illegal border crossing, and illegal weapons posssession. They are charged under a number of articles of the Nagorno Karabakh republic’s penal code. In particular, they are accused of murdering 17-year-old villager Smbat Tsakanian and 42-year-old officer Sargis Abrahamian, as well as wounding the wife of another serviceman, 37-year-old Karine Davtian.

Hasan Hasanov, a third member of the group, was reportedly killed after showing resistance during his arrest. Hasanov’s body was repatriated to Azerbaijan earlier this month.

Under the laws of Karabakh both Azerbaijanis have been provided with defense attorneys. An interpreter is also available for the defendants during the trial.

At the beginning of the court proceedings Quliyev pleaded not guilty to charges of murdering Tsakanian and illegally crossing the border, but he admitted to stealing money from the Armenian teenager, who was later found dead.

Official Baku insists that none of the Azerbaijanis accused of sabotage by Armenians are servicemen or were hired to commit undermining activities in Karabakh. In Azerbaijan some media presented them as citizens hailing from Kelbajar who regularly visited the graves of their family members that remained in the territory controlled by the Armenian military after the 1994 ceasefire.

David Babayan, a spokesperson for the NKR president, said that “the trial will be held in accordance with standards of a civilized country.” He said that the local justice system will ensure a fair trial “no matter how hard it will be for us to do, since these people are charged with very heavy crimes.”

“They have been provided with lawyers and these lawyers will do everything to defend their interests. Only the court will give the final verdict,” the official told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am).

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