The military bench of Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court has sentenced a group of former military and security officials on high treason charges stemming in part from the October 1994 coup attempt against President Heydar Aliyev. Former state security minister Nariman Imranov, former defense minister Rahim Gaziev, and former deputy defense minister Alikram Gumbatov were sentenced to death. Arif Pashaev, former deputy chairman of the Popular Front and a paramilitary commander, was accused of having surrendered Lachin and Shusha in the Karabakh war and sentenced to 6 years’ imprisonment. Four other Security Ministry officers received prison terms from 5 to 12 years. Gumbatov was additionally charged with having organized the secessionist "Talysh-Mugan republic" in August 1993 in the southern Azerbaijani region; that region is inhabited by the Talysh ethnic group. Gaziev was sentenced in absentia because he had earlier escaped to Russia from detention. (16)
Last week the Baku municipal court sentenced 25 officers of the military unit of former warlord and defense minister Suret Huseinov to prison terms ranging from 10 to 15 years for taking part in the attempted coup of October 1994. The officers had briefly seized power in the country’s second-largest city, Gandja, as part of the coup attempt. Huseinov, like Gaziev, is being sheltered in Moscow, as is also Azerbaijan’s former Communist party leader Ayaz Mutalibov. Mutalibov is wanted in Azerbaijan for his complicity in the March 1995 abortive coup by OMON police in Baku. (17)
The trials and sentences are a legal epilogue to the turmoil of the first years of Azerbaijan’s independence, when the Popular Front mismanaged the Karabakh war, Moscow encouraged ethnic separatism in parts of the country, certain Communists sought revenge, and Russian-oriented elements within military and security bodies repeatedly attempted to seize power. Aliyev has since managed to stabilize the situation in the country.