Thu, 23 Sep 2021

An Azerbaijani court has sentenced 13 members of Armenia's armed forces to six years in prison on charges of illegally crossing the border and weapons possession.

The Baku Court for Major Crimes ruled late on July 22 that the men, who denied the charges, will be deported after serving their prison terms.

There was no immediate comment from Armenian officials, but they have previously denounced similar trials claiming that those convicted and sentenced were prisoners of war.

The 13 convicted men were among more than 60 members of Armenia's military who were captured by Azerbaijani forces in December 2020 in the Hadrut district of Nagorno-Karabakh following a November cease-fire that ended six weeks of fighting over the breakaway region.

About half of them have since been handed over to Yerevan in exchange for maps showing the location of land mines.

Some 6,000 people were killed in the fighting that ended in November. The number of Armenian prisoners of war and other detainees still in Azerbaijani custody remains unclear.

Tensions since the signing of the cease-fire have remained high between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with scattered reports of exchanges of gun fire.

Under the Russian-brokered truce, Azerbaijan retook control of swaths of territory ethnic Armenians had controlled since the 1990s and nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers have been deployed between the two sides.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians who make up most of the region's population reject Azerbaijani rule.

They had been governing their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan's troops and Azeri civilians were pushed out of the region and seven adjacent districts in a war that ended in a cease-fire in 1994.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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