Four Azerbaijani citizens have been sentenced by a Kazakh court to six months in prison on charges of illegally fishing within Kazakhstan's territorial waters of the Caspian Sea.
The Qaraqiya district court in the western Manghystau region said on August 14 that the Azeris, whose identities were not disclosed, were found guilty of illegal border crossing and illegally fishing for sturgeon in Kazakhstan's territorial waters.
The court also ruled that the four men will not be allowed to enter Kazakhstan for five years after they complete their prison terms.
Kazakh border guards apprehended the four men in March. Authorities said then that the border guards had to use firearms to stop and detain them.
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Iran, and Turkmenistan signed a new convention on August 12 on the legal status of the resource-rich Caspian Sea -- a matter disputed between the five neighbors for more than 20 years.
A draft of the agreement, posted briefly on Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's website in June and obtained by RFE/RL, suggested that the countries would agree the Caspian was a sea rather than a lake.
That means the five countries would draw lines extending from their shores to the midway point with littoral neighbors. Classifying it as a lake would mean the resources would be divided equally among those five countries.
Debates on whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake have been ongoing since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, leaving five countries with shorelines on the inland sea instead of two -- the Soviet Union and Iran.