Azerbaijan says detained former Nagorno-Karabakh separatist president Harutyunyan

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Azerbaijan confirmed Thursday it had detained an ex-president of its recently captured separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which agreed to reintegrate with Azerbaijan in the wake of Baku’s lightening offensive last month.

On Wednesday, Armenia’s foreign ministry “strongly condemned” Azerbaijan for arresting several separatist leaders from Karabakh.

Azerbaijan’s prosecutor general and security service said in a joint statement that Arayik Harutyunyan was detained Tuesday on “suspicion of waging an aggressive war” against Azerbaijan and alleged war crimes.

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The 49-year-old headed the separatist government during the 2020 armed conflict between Baku and Yerevan for control of the mountainous enclave and stepped down in early September, shortly before Baku’s offensive.

Several senior representatives of Karabakh’s former authorities and military command have been detained, including Ruben Vardanyan - a reported billionaire who headed the region’s separatist government between November 2022 and February.

Armenian foreign affairs ministry has said the country “will take all possible steps to protect the rights of the illegally arrested representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh, including in international courts.”

Separatist authorities in the breakaway region agreed to disarm, dissolve their government and reintegrate with Azerbaijan following Baku’s one-day military operation in late September.

The central government in Baku is holding “re-integration” talks with separatist leaders, but Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General Kamran Aliyev has said criminal investigations had been initiated into crimes committed by 300 separatist officials.

The United Nations human rights office has urged Baku to afford the detainees “full respect and protection.”

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