The U.S. State Department has urged the Azerbaijani authorities to investigate the suspicious death of an Armenian man who was detained by them after crossing into Azerbaijan on August 7.
“The United States is deeply concerned by reports on the death of Karen Petrosian while in Azerbaijan’s custody and by allegations that his death was not due to natural causes,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement issued in response an Armenian Public Television inquiry.
“The United States offers its sincere condolences to Mr. Petrosian’s family,” said the statement. “We call on the Government of Azerbaijan to conduct a full and transparent investigation into this incident and to make its findings public.
“We remind the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia of their obligations under international humanitarian law, especially their obligation to treat humanely all those taken into custody. We call on both Armenia and Azerbaijan to grant the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to all detainees and internees held for conflict-related reasons.”
Petrosian, who lived in a village in northeastern Armenia close to the Azerbaijani border, crossed the frontier in still unclear circumstances. He was pronounced dead the following day. The Azerbaijani military claimed that Petrosian died of “acute heart failure.” It accused him of being part of an Armenian “sabotage group” that tried to infiltrate Azerbaijan.
The Armenian authorities dismissed those claims, saying that Petrosian was a civilian murdered or tortured to death by his Azerbaijani interrogators.
Residents of Chinari village, where Petrosian lived with his parents, likewise insisted at the weekend that the 33-year-old was not a soldier. Samvel Saghoyan, the village mayor, again suggested that he accidentally crossed the Armenian-Azerbaijani border while collecting firewood in a local forest.
“They savagely tortured him to death,” said another villager. “He was a healthy boy.”
Petrosian’s parents refused to be interviewed by RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “I visit them every day,” said Saghoyan. “They still can’t believe he is dead.”