The Azerbaijani authorities have released an Armenian soldier from custody and immediately deported him to an unknown third country one year after he was taken prisoner near Nagorno-Karabakh, his family said on Friday.
The 23-year-old Hakob Injighulian crossed into Azerbaijani-controlled territory east of Karabakh in disputed circumstances in August 2013. Shortly afterwards he was paraded on Azerbaijani television saying that he surrendered to Azerbaijani forces after being ill-treated by one of his commanders.
The Armenian military said that the soldier was forced to present a false version of events under duress. It insisted that he crossed the “line of contact” around Karabakh by accident.
The Defense Ministry in Yerevan condemned the televised appearance as well as the fact that Injighulian was made to wear an Azerbaijani army uniform as a gross violation of international conventions on treatment of prisoners of war. It went on to offer to exchange Injighulian for Firuz Farajev, an Azerbaijani soldier detained by Armenian troops on the border with Azerbaijan in July 2012.
Farajev was unexpectedly deported to a third country later in August 2013, after the POW exchange fell through.
According to Injighulian’s brother, Harutyun, news of the Armenian POW’s release was communicated to his family by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). “They didn’t give us any other details,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We don’t even know to which country he was transferred on August 26.”
“We were told to wait until Hakob himself gets in touch with us,” said Harutyun Injighulian.
A Red Cross official in Yerevan confirmed the soldier’s release in comments to Panorama.am. But he said the ICRC is not aware of his current whereabouts.