Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Former Nagorno-Karabakh leader in pretrial detention

Former Nagorno-Karabakh leader in pretrial detention The former leader of the secessionist region of Nagorno Karabakh, with an Armenian majority, was placed in preventive detention for four months by Azerbaijan, a decision immediately denounced on Thursday by Yerevan, which denounces “illegal detentions.”

Ruben Vardanian, a businessman who ruled Nagorno-Karabakh from November 2022 until last February, has been charged with financing terrorism and other crimes, according to Azerbaijan’s state security service.

Vardanian is also accused of creating an illegal armed organization, according to the indictment presented by this service, which released a video showing the accused handcuffed and escorted by agents of the Azerbaijani security forces.

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These crimes could land Mr. Vardanian, who was born in 1968, a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Armenia, for its part, criticized Baku for detaining columns of civilians fleeing the border from the territory of the separatist republic of Nagorno Karabakh, which has just announced its upcoming dissolution.

“This worries us very much,” said Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian during a cabinet meeting, in which he appealed to the international community.

“The government has turned to the European Court of Human Rights to ask where Vardanian is and what his state of health is,” Hasmik Samvelian, spokesman for Armenia’s representative for international legal issues, told AFP.

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Azerbaijan has agreed to allow separatists who lay down their arms to leave for Armenia, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement reached last Wednesday.

But an Azerbaijani government source told AFP that border guards were also searching for “war crimes” suspects who should face legal action.

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