YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A court in Yerevan has found an Iranian citizen guilty of spying in favor of Azerbaijan and his alleged Armenian accomplice of committing high treason. Both men were given lengthy prison terms on Monday following a trial that lasted several months and was held behind closed doors.
Behnam Bagheri, a citizen of Iran whom the judge identified as an ethnic Azeri in the verdict, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for trying to smuggle out of Armenia some footage that contained “anti-Armenian propaganda that could be used to discredit Armenia’s international prestige.”
According to the prosecution, Bagheri received a disc with the video in question in September 2009 from retired Armenian Lieutenant Colonel Gevorg Hayrapetian.
The Iranian was arrested by Armenia’s National Security Service late last year when he was crossing the Armenian border into Iran and was later charged with spying for Azerbaijan.
Hayrapetian, 47, a decorated veteran of the 1991-1994 Nagorno-Karabakh war with Azerbaijan who worked in the Armenian Defense Ministry system from then until 2007, was convicted of high treason and illegally keeping weapons and sentenced to a total of 12 years in jail.
Both men denied the charges throughout the trial.
Their lawyers said no evidence had been found during the investigation and trial to convict their clients. They said they would appeal the verdicts.
Bagheri’s brother Javad who attended the trial in Yerevan along with his mother told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that his 30-year-old brother had attended school for only five years, would make his living as a sheep herdsman in a predominantly Azeri-populated region of Iran and was visiting Armenia for the first time to see his girlfriend.
He thus tried to show that his brother could not have committed the crime he was convicted of.
And Hayrapetian’s lawyer Seda Safarian said that after receiving the verdict the defense counsel will start making public the evidence based on which her client was convicted.
“You will see that there is nothing in this evidence,” she told RFE/RL on Monday.