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Court in Azerbaijan sentences NATO protesters

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  • Court in Azerbaijan sentences NATO protesters

    Agence France Presse -- English
    August 30, 2004 Monday 11:11 AM GMT

    Court in Azerbaijan sentences NATO protesters


    A court in the former Soviet republic of Azerbiajan handed out prison
    sentences Monday to protesters who had tried to storm a conference of
    NATO officials in the Azeri capital two months ago.

    The court found six protesters guilty of public order offences and
    resisting arrest, and ordered that they should be sent to prison for
    terms ranging from three to five years.

    The protesters had been demonstrating about the presence at the NATO
    meeting of two officers from Armenia's armed forces.

    Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war in the early 1990s over the
    disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The two neighbouring
    countries remain at a state of war, though there is no large-scale

    Among those sentenced Monday was Akif Nagi, leader of the hardline
    Karabakh Liberation Organisation, which favours new military action
    against Armenia. He was given five years in jail.

    Supporters and relatives of the convicted men staged a protest in the
    courtroom when the sentences were handed down but they were dispersed
    by police.

    The NATO meeting, which took place in the capital, Baku on June 21,
    was briefly disrupted as the protesters scuffled with police and
    smashed windows outside the conference venue.

    Many people in Azerbaijan sympathised with the protesters --
    evidence, observers said, of growing public support for a renewal of
    hostilities over Nagorno-Karabakh.

    The war there displaced a million civilians and left some 35,000
    people dead.