By Emil Danielyan
Japan’s embassy in Moscow on Friday denied reports about the arrest in Baku of a visiting Japanese student of Yerevan State University on suspicion of spying for Armenia, saying that he was only briefly questioned by the Azerbaijani police.
“The student did not face formal arrest and was simply invited to answer questions that interested the authorities,” an embassy spokeswoman told RFE/RL.
News of the arrest was first reported by an Azerbaijani television channel on August 13. “An act of sabotage by Armenia was foiled in Baku today,” Azad Azerbaijan TV declared in a report monitored by the BBC. It identified the Japanese man as Ogawa Siniawa, saying that he is 28 and is a first-year student at the sociology department of Armenia’s biggest university.
Subsequent reports from Baku said the Azerbaijani authorities suspect the Yerevan-based student of espionage. But the Azerbaijani daily “Ekho” denied this on Friday.
Citing the Japanese embassy in Azerbaijan, the paper said the student was questioned by the police and set free 30 minutes later. It said the man attracted police attention while taking pictures in central Baku and was taken to a nearby police station after an identity check revealed his affiliation with Yerevan State University.
In Yerevan, meanwhile, the deputy rector of YSU, Ara Avetisian, told RFE/RL that there are two Japanese nationals studying at the university at the moment. Avetisian declined to give their names and said he is unaware of their travel schedule during the summer recess. He also described as “silly” and “unserious” the espionage speculation.