Law-enforcement authorities in Yerevan said on Friday that they have found evidence that the death of an Armenian man in Azerbaijani captivity last month was the result of a “premeditated murder.”
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General said Manvel Saribekian’s partly decomposed corpse underwent a forensic examination after being handed over by Azerbaijan on Thursday.
“According to the preliminary results of the forensic examination, there are signs of violence on the body, which confirms that Manvel Saribekian was inhumanly tortured,” it said in a written statement.
The statement added that the Armenian police have opened a criminal case under an article of Armenia’s Criminal Code dealing with “premeditated murder committed with particular brutality.”
A resident of a border village in northeastern Armenia, Saribekian was captured by Azerbaijani troops on September 11 and reportedly found hanged in an Azerbaijani prison cell less than a month later. The authorities in Baku said he committed suicide.
Armenian officials have disputed this claim, saying that the 20-year-old was either murdered or “driven to suicide.” Both the Armenian government and Saribekian’s family have also strongly denied Azerbaijani claims that he was a member of an Armenian sabotage unit. They insist that Saribekian accidentally crossed into Azerbaijan while grazing cattle.
The prosecutors’ statement stood by this version of events. It said Saribekian “lost orientation” because of heavy fog.
Shortly after his capture, Saribekian, was shown on Azerbaijani television saying that he was recruited by an Armenian security officer and underwent a two-month training course at a secret military camp together with several other men.
Saribekian, who had what looked a like bruise under his right eye, claimed that they were sent to Azerbaijan on a mission to blow up a school in a village close to the Armenian border. At the same time, he said he told Azerbaijani troops that captured him, “Please don’t kill me, I’m a shepherd.”
The Armenian Defense Ministry condemned the interview as a violation of international conventions. It said Saribekian was forced to make a false confession sought by the Azerbaijani authorities.