STRASBOURG — The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found Azerbaijani authorities guilty of torturing two residents of Armenian border villages who died after crossing into Azerbaijan in 2014.

In separate rulings announced on Thursday, the ECHR ordered Baku to pay the families of Karen Petrosyan and Mamikon Khojoyan a total of 80,000 euros ($92,000) in damages.

Azerbaijan soldiers escort Karen Petrosyan, an Armenian villager who crossed into Azerbaijan, 7Aug2014

Petrosyan, a 33-year-old villager from Tavush province bordering Azerbaijan, crossed the frontier for unclear reasons in August 2014. He was first spotted by residents of an Azerbaijani border village and then detained by the Azerbaijani military. Petrosyan was accused of being part of an Armenian “sabotage group” that tried to infiltrate Azerbaijan.

Petrosyan was pronounced dead the following day. Baku claimed that he died of “acute heart failure.”

The Armenian authorities rejected the claim, saying that Petrosyan was murdered or beaten to death. The United States and France expressed serious concern at the man’s suspicious death and called on Baku to conduct an objective investigation.

Mamikon Khojoyan, a 77-year-old villager detained and later freed by Azerbaijan, is treated at a hospital in Ijevan, 5Mar2014.

The 77-year-old Khojoyan, who lived in another Tavush village, was detained in a nearby Azerbaijani settlement in January 2014. Baku claimed that he was an armed guide of an Armenian sabotage group that tried to carry out a cross-border incursion. Yerevan laughed off the claim, saying that the elderly man strayed into Azerbaijani territory by accident.

Khojoyan was freed and repatriated in March 2014. He died more than two months later. Armenian doctors said he suffered serious injuries during his captivity.

The ECHR ruled that in both cases Azerbaijan violated articles of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantee people’s right to life and prohibit torture. It said that Petrosyan and Khojoyan were subjected to violence in Azerbaijani custody.

The Azerbaijani government did not immediately react to the rulings. It can appeal against them in the ECHR Grand Chamber.

In January 2020, the Strasbourg-based court handed down a similar verdict on an appeal lodged by the parents of Manvel Saribekyan, a 20-year-old resident of another Armenian border village who was detained Azerbaijan in September 2010.

Azerbaijani authorities paraded Saribekyan on national television, saying that he was trained by an Armenian commando unit and sent to Azerbaijan to carry out terrorist attacks. Saribekyan’s family strongly denied the allegations, insisting that he accidentally crossed the border while grazing cattle.

Saribekyan was found hanged in an Azerbaijani detention center in October 2010. Azerbaijani officials claimed that he committed suicide.

The young man’s body underwent a forensic examination after being handed over to Armenia. Law-enforcement authorities in Yerevan concluded that he was tortured to death.

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