Azerbaijani authorities confirmed on Saturday that former Artsakh Foreign Minister and current presidential adviser David Babayan is in Azerbaijani custody, as Baku continues to round up prominent Artsakh political figures.
Reuters reported earlier that the Azerbaijani government is targeting some 200 Artsakh leaders for arrests and prosecution.
Babayan on Thursday said in a social media post that he planned to travel to occupied Shushi to turn himself in to Azerbaijani authorities.
“You all know that I am included in the black list of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani side demanded my arrival in Baku for an appropriate investigation. I decided to head from Stepanakert to Shushi today,” Babayan said in a social media post Thursday.
The Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s office said that an arrest warrant was issued for Babayan on October 28, 2020 when he was charged with allegedly “planning war; organizing mercenary units; violating international laws during combat operations; terrorism; and ethnic hatred.”
Azerbaijani guards also have arrested the former First Deputy Commander of the Artsakh Defense Army Major General Davit Manukyan and the commander of the Artsakh forces Lieutenant general Levon Mnatsakanyan.
These arrests followed the very public apprehension of former Artsakh State Minister Ruben Vardanyan on Wednesday. Vardanyan has been remanded to pre-trial custody for four months.
Hundreds rallied on Saturday in Yerevan in support of Ruben Vardanyan and all other illegally detained Armenians in Azerbaijan.
“We call on all world leaders, the news media and human rights advocates, to join this struggle and demand the unconditional, immediate and safe release and return of Ruben Vardanyan and all prisoners, all illegally detained persons,” said Ruben Hayrapetyan, the organizer of the demonstration.
“The world must see and realize that what’s happening now is not only a crime against humanity but also a crime against civilization,” he added, noting that the fabricated charges pressed by the Azerbaijani authorities against Vardanyan and other captives are “ridiculous and fake.”
The demonstrators walked through downtown Yerevan toward theMatena International School of Leadership and Professional Development, founded by Vardanyan, is located.
Arman Jilavyan, a personal friend to Ruben Vardanyan and CEO of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, read a statement made by Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and signed by global humanitarian leaders in support of Vardanyan.
Below is the text of the statement.
The recent arrest by the government of Azerbaijan of philanthropist, businessman, Armenian citizen and co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, Ruben Vardanyan, is both outrageous and politically motivated. As members of the global humanitarian and human rights community we call for his immediate release.
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, to which Ruben has given so much, has for the past eight years honored and supported the work of those who fight for basic human rights, often at the risk of their own lives, all around the world. The irony is that Ruben now finds himself a victim of the same persecution as those he has sought to help as a human rights defender.
When Ruben moved to Nagorno-Karabakh over a year ago, prior to the 10-month-long blockade of all food and basic necessities and recent bombings, he did so knowing that there were significant risks, but he was determined to help find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Detaining Ruben, a man who has spent the last 20 years dedicated to advancing the socio-economic development of the region, is unjust. This action deprives him of his basic rights much like the tens of thousands of Armenians of the region whose fundamental human rights are violated daily.
Ruben Vardanyan is being held captive because of his support for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and their right to a democratic way of life. The Azerbaijani government must release him and demonstrate their respect for human rights – his and those of all Armenians of the region.