Azerbaijan court upholds jailing of Nagorno-Karabakh activists

AP Online
Jul 02, 2004

Azerbaijan's Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court's
decision to jail five activists who disrupted a NATO forum here last
month to protest the involvement of two Armenian officers, their
lawyer said.

The protest, which briefly disrupted the NATO forum, highlighted the
still simmering tensions between the neighboring ex-Soviet republics
of Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh
territory.

Akif Nagi, head of the Organization of Karabakh Freedom, and five
other group members pushed through police cordons, broke glass doors
and stormed into a conference hall in Baku's Europe hotel on June
22. The protesters and hotel security guards suffered minor injuries
in the incident in the hotel and the meeting resumed in several
minutes.

They were accused of hooliganism and ordered by the Nasimi regional
court in Baku to be held for two months. Azerbaijan's appeals court
upheld the ruling Friday, said Elchin Gambarov, the defendants'
lawyer.

"Such decisions in relation to the Organization of Karabakh Freedom
bring no honor to our people or to our nation," he said.

Armenian-backed forces won control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a largely
ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, after a 1988-94 war. More than
30,000 people were killed and a million driven from their homes during
the conflict.

Despite a 1994 cease-fire, the two countries continue to face off
across a heavily fortified no man's land, and no final settlement has
been reached.

Interior Minister Ramil Usubov said he thought the court decision was
"correct."

"The Armenians didn't come here independently, but in connection with
a NATO event being held in Azerbaijan and the actions of those who
were arrested, aimed at disrupting this event, were illegal," he said.

Neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan are NATO members, but both participate
in NATO's Partnership for Peace program.