BAKU — A court in Azerbaijan sentenced two Armenian soldiers to 11.5 years in prison on Friday more than one month after they were kidnaped by Azerbaijani forces in a cross-border incursion.
According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, the soldiers, Harutyun Hovagimyan and Karen Ghazaryan, were ambushed and kidnapped on May 26 after delivering water and food to Armenian army units guarding the border with Azerbaijan. The ministry published photographs of their abandoned military truck found in a wooded area in in Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province.
The Azerbaijani side falsely claimed that Hovagimyan and Ghazaryan were taken prisoner during a sabotage attack on an Azerbaijani army outpost. It brought a string of criminal charges, including “terrorism,” against them. They were convicted of these charges, strongly denied by Yerevan, at the end of a brief trial that began on Monday.
Artak Zeynalyan, a human rights lawyer representing the families of dozens of other Armenian prisoners of war held in Azerbaijan, described the trial as a “farce.” Zeynalyan said the Azerbaijani military kidnapped Hovagimyan and Ghazaryan in hopes of swapping them with two Azerbaijani soldiers who were detained in Armenia in April.