Azerbaijan jails 13 Armenian military personnel for six years -court


BAKU (Reuters) – An Azerbaijan court late on Thursday sentenced 13 members of Armenia’s armed forces to six years in prison, finding them guilty of illegally crossing the border, weapons possession and terrorism offences.

Armenia had no immediate reaction to the sentencing.

Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a six-week war last year in which Azeri troops drove ethnic Armenian forces out of swathes of territory they had long controlled in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

Although the war ended in a ceasefire, Azerbaijan detained more than 60 members of the Armenian military in December, accusing them of illegally entering Azeri territory. Some of them were later freed.

The 13 men sentenced this week will be deported after serving their prison terms, according to the decision from Azerbaijan’s serious crimes court.

Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan discussed the return of servicemen from Azerbaijan during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

Earlier this month, Azerbaijan sentenced 14 members of Armenia’s armed forces to various jail terms.

The fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, ended in a ceasefire brokered by Russia, but clashes on the border have persisted at irregular intervals this year, occasionally causing fatalities.

Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics, are watched closely abroad for any threat to Azeri gas and oil pipelines and the risk of regional powers Turkey and Russia being dragged into conflict.

(Reporting by Nailia Bagirova; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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