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Trdat Musheghyan

Baku Jails Eight Former Artsakh Officials: “Terrorism” the Main Charge

Following its September 19 military offensive against Artsakh, Azerbaijan arrested and indicted eight former Artsakh officials on a variety of criminal charges.

Here’s a summary of the charges.

Artsakh State Minister Ruben Vardanyan

Azerbaijani security forces arrested Vardanyan, who served as Artsakh State Minister from November 2022-February 2023, as he attempted to enter Armenia via the Lachin Corridor. 

Azerbaijan’s State Security Service (SSS) later announced that Vardanyan had been charged with financing of terrorism, participation in the creation and operation of an illegal armed association or group, as well as illegal crossing Azerbaijan’s state border.

The SSS also published footage of Ruben Vardanyan's arrest and interrogation. An Azerbaijani court decided to detain Vardanyan for four months prior to a court trial.

Azerbaijan’s Human Rights Defender (HRD) visited Vardanyan on October 6. The HRD’s office says Vardanyan's defense is carried out by Afat Gazieva, a lawyer chosen by his family.

On October 9, Gazieva filed a complaint to the Court of Appeals regarding Vardanyan's restraining order, but the court rejected it.

Artsakh Foreign Minster Davit Babayan 

Babayan, in a September 28 Facebook post, announced that he would surrender to Azerbaijani authorities in Shushi.

Babayan, who served as foreign minister from January 2021 to January 2023, wrote that Baku had demanded his surrender and that he decided to comply to prevent further suffering of Artsakh Armenians.

Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s Office, on September 30, announced that Babayan had been charged with inciting national hatred/enmity and coordinating the activities of terrorist groups.

On October 3, Azerbaijan’s HRD visited Babayan and claimed that he did not complain about the conditions of his detention, had been given glasses and access to the prison library.

Artsakh Defense Army Deputy Commander Davit Manukyan

Azerbaijan’s Border Guard Service (BGS) arrested Manukyan on September 27 when he attempted to reach Armenia from Artsakh via the Lachin Corridor.

Azerbaijan’s State Security Service (SSS), on September 29, announced that Manukyan had been charged with committing terrorism by an organized group, illegally acquiring firearms, ammunition and explosive materials, creating illegal armed groups, and illegally crossing Azerbaijan’s state border.

Azerbaijan’s BGS published a video of Manukyan's arrest and interrogation. An Azerbaijani court has ordered that Manukyan be detained for four months.

Artsakh Defense Minister Levon Mnatsakanyan

Azerbaijani security forces detained Mnatsakanyan on September 29 as he attempted to reach Armenia via the Lachin Corridor. 

Mnatsakanyan, a Stepanakert native, served as defense minister from June 2015 to December 2018. He also served as Artsakh’s police chief. As defense minister, he also served as the commander of the Artsakh Defense Army.

Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s office alleges Mnatsakanyan was part of a group that tortured Azerbaijani prisoners in one of the villages of the Fizulu region in 2002.

A Baku court has ordered that Mnatsakanyan be detained in an Azerbaijani State Security Service isolation cell.

Mnatsakanyan is the only representative of the military-political leadership of Artsakh, about whom Azerbaijan hasn’t published a video or photo.

Artsakh Presidents Arkady Ghukasyan, Bako Sahakyan; Parliament Speaker Davit Ishkhanyan

On October 3, the Azerbaijani press reported  that the second and third presidents of the Artsakh Republic - Arkady Ghukasyan (1997-2007) and Bako Sahakyan (2007-2020) -  were arrested and transferred to Baku.

Also arrested was Davit Ishkhanyan, the last speaker of the Artsakh parliament.

All three are accused of committing terrorism by an organized group using firearms/explosives, conducting training for terrorist purposes, illegally acquiring, storing, transporting and carrying weapons/ammunition by an organized group, and creating and participating in armed groups.

Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan

On October 3, the Azerbaijani press reported that Arayik Harutyunyan, the fourth president of the Artsakh Republic (2020-2023), had been arrested and transferred to Baku.

Two days later, Azerbaijan’s Border Guard Service reported that Harutyunyan was arrested in Stepanakert.

 Harutyunyan has been charged with organizing an aggressive war on the territory of Azerbaijan, engaging in the recruitment and financing of militants, violating international humanitarian law and issuing criminal orders during the conflict.

Harutyunyan is also accused of ordering the launch of ballistic missiles at the Azerbaijani cities of Ganja and Barda during the 2020 war, organizing the mining of the territory of Azerbaijan, smuggling weapons, and financing terrorism.

The Azerbaijan press reports that lawyer Alov Safaraliev has been appointed to represent Harutyunyan.

Detained Artsakh officials have contacted relatives

Davit Manukyan's brother, Hayastan faction MP Gegham Manukyan, told Hetq that his brother had a very brief telephone conversation with the family. Gegham Manukyan did not provide details.

Tigran Abrahamyan, Secretary of the With Honor parliamentary faction, says Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan contacted relatives last week. Abrahamyan said that according to his information, all eight detainees were given the opportunity to telephone relatives.

Davit Vardanyan, son of former Minister of State of Artsakh Ruben Vardanyan, told News.am that his father telephoned twice.

Radio Liberty (Azatutyun) writes that all eight detained former Artsakh officials in Baku have contacted their families.

Red Cross reps haven’t visited detainees 

Zara Amatuni, an official at the Armenian Red Cross, says representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross haven’t had the opportunity to visit the detained Artsakh officials. The official said the reason cannot be publicized, but that talks are underway with Azerbaijani authorities to allow such visits.

European Court hasn’t responded to Armenia’s request

On October 4, Armenia applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to ensure the protection of the rights of all representatives of the current and former leadership of Artsakh, demanding that Baku release all detainees.

Hasmik Samvelyan, spokesperson of the Republic of Armenia’s Representative for International Legal Issues, told Hetq the ECHR hasn’t yet responded to the application.

Top photo: Nareh Petrosyan

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