Court in Azerbaijan sentences Nagorno-Karabakh activists to prisonte

Court in Azerbaijan sentences Nagorno-Karabakh activists to prison terms

Associated Press Worldstream
August 30, 2004 Monday 12:38 PM Eastern Time

BAKU, Azerbaijan — An Azerbaijani court on Monday handed down prison
sentences to six protesters arrested in June for causing disturbances
at a NATO forum attended by Armenian officers.

The defendants conviced by a court in the capital Baku are members
of the Organization for the Liberation of Karakbakh, a group that
opposes ethnic Armenian control over Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory
in Azerbaijan that has been disputed since a war that ended in a
decade ago.

The organization’s head, Famil Nasibov, was sentenced to five years
in prison, his deputy Firidum Mammadov to three years, while three
members of the group’s youth branch received four-year sentences.
Their lawyers said they will appeal.

The protesters pushed through police cordons, broke glass doors
and stormed into a conference hall in Baku’ Europe hotel where a
NATO forum was being held in June, calling on Azerbaijan to stop
negotiating with neighboring Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The protesters and hotel security guards suffered minor injuries in
the incident in the hotel and the meeting resumed in several minutes.

Armenian-backed forces took control of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding
areas in a six-year war that killed some 30,000 people and drove
about a million from their homes.

A 1994 cease-fire has largely held, but no final settlement has been
reached, and the ongoing confrontation has hurt the economies of both
former Soviet republics.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are not NATO members, but both participate in
the alliance’s Partnership for Peace program.