YEREVAN — Three students from Nagorno-Karabakh were set free and handed over to Armenia on Thursday ten days after being kidnaped and arrested at the illegal Azerbaijani checkpoint in the Lachin corridor.

The young men were taken into Azerbaijani custody as they and dozens of other Karabakh Armenians travelled to Armenia in a convoy of vehicles escorted by Russian peacekeepers. Karabakh’s leadership and the Armenian government strongly condemned the arrests.

The Azerbaijani authorities said the three detainees aged between 20 and 22 are members of a Karabakh football team that had “disrespected” the Azerbaijani national flag in a 2021 video posted on social media. They were placed under a ten-day administrative arrest as a result.

Armenia’s National Security Service reported that Alen Sargsyan, Vahe Hovsepyan and Levon Grigoryan were handed over to its border guards deployed  near the Azerbaijani checkpoint. The office of Karabakh’s human rights defender said it will talk to them to find out more details of their kidnapping and their treatment by Azerbaijani authorities.

Another Karabakh man, Vagif Khachatryan, was arrested at the Azerbaijani checkpoint in late July while being evacuated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Armenia. The 68-year-old was taken Baku to stand trial on charges of killing and deporting Karabakh’s ethnic Azerbaijani residents in December 1991, at the start of the first Armenian-Azerbaijani war.

Karabakh’s leadership rejected the false accusations and demanded Khachatryan’s immediate release. The Armenian Foreign Ministry likewise condemned Khachatryan’s arrest as a “blatant violation of international humanitarian law” and a “war crime.”

 

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