Monday, 22 October 2018

MEP Štětina faces Azeri arrest warrant

ČTK |
24 February 2017

Prague/Baku, Feb 23 (CTK) - The Azerbaijani authorities have issued an international arrest warrant for three European Parliament members who were observers at a referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh on Monday, including Czech MEP Jaromir Stetina, who confirmed this on his Facebook page.
"Azerbaijan requested that the Interpol arrest me," Stetina writes.
Czech news server Aktualne.cz reported about the case last night.
Since the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994, Azerbaijan has been seeking to return the breakaway region with Armenian ethnic majority under its rule. It declares that the neighbouring Armenia has occupied this Azeri territory.
Azerbaijan accused the three MEPs - Stetina, Eleni Theocharous from Cyprus and Frank Engel from Luxembourg (all European People's Party, EPP) - of unauthorised entry of an occupied territory.
On February 20, a constitutional referendum was held in Nagorno-Karabakh and the three MEPs monitored it. Azerbaijan protested against the referendum and said it was illegal. The referendum introduces a presidential regime and the official name for the region, Republic of Artsakh.
Stetina is deputy chairman of the EP Subcommittee for Security and Defence. He was a war correspondent in the former Soviet republics. He is known for his strong opposition to communism.
Christine Cullen, from the Interpol general secretariat, told CTK that she cannot comment on particular cases.
A member state can issue an announcement on search for persons on the basis of an international arrest warrant. However, this request must be reviewed before it is sent to the 190 member states.
Interpol cannot force any member state to arrest an individual who is searched for in such an announcement or demand that any member state take steps in reaction to a request of another member state, Cullen said, adding that each country makes a decision on its own.
Czech MEP and European law expert Pavel Svoboda said immunity did not play a role in the case of the three colleagues of his.
"They do not have diplomatic immunity, but a deputy's special immunity that is valid only in the EU. Since this was an EU delegation, I rule out their arrest in the EU, but not east of the EU, except for Georgia, Ukraine and Armenia," Svoboda texted to CTK.
Stetina said in an interview for Aktualne.cz server that he had attended the referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh as an observer on Monday since he supported Nagorno-Karabakh "against the Azeri dictator" (President Heydar Aliyev).
The voting really took place "according to international standards" and 80 percent of people supported the new constitution, he said. He added that the constitutional reform basically strengthened the presidential power following the model of the U.S. constitution.
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