Alleged Spies Are ‘Former Refugees From Azerbaijan’

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–It was reported on Tuesday that the four Armenian citizens arrested earlier this month on charges of spying for Azerbaijan are members of the same extended family that took refuge in Armenia in the late 1980s.

A government-appointed lawyer representing interests of the accused told RFE/RL that they have since resided in the southeastern Armenian town of Yeghegnadzor and are of ethnic Ukrainian and Russian descent. The lawyer–Gevorg Melkonian–refused to reveal their names–citing the confidentiality of the investigation conducted by the Armenian ministry of national security.

Melkonian said only that those arrested are a married couple and their relatives–a man and a woman; their ages range between 30 and 45.

Melkonian claimed that all four suspects have admitted receiving "small" amounts of money from the Azerbaijani defense and interior ministries in exchange for providing them with information about Armenia. But he said he does not think that the information contained any state secrets–arguing that only one of the arrested women had a permanent job in Yeghegnadzor–the administrative center of Vayots Dzor province. He declined to name her employer.

Vayots Dzor borders the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan and hosts several military bases deployed along the fortified border–the scene of major skirmishes during the 1992-94 war for Nagorno-Karabakh.

According to Melkonian–the suspects passed Armenia-related data on to Azerbaijani intelligence agents in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

News of the arrests was announced by the national security ministry last week. Ministry officials on Tuesday again refused to provide any further information on the case. It is not clear when they will finish the inquiry.

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