An Armenian civilian was paraded on Azerbaijani television on Wednesday after apparently crossing into Azerbaijan from Armenia in unclear circumstances.
The Azerbaijani military claimed to have captured the 43-year-old man identified as Zaven Karapetian while thwarting an Armenian incursion into Azerbaijani territory. A televised video circulated by it shows the man wearing a camouflage vest over plain clothes presenting himself as a resident of Dovegh, a border village in Armenia’s northern Tavush province, and saying that he works for an Armenian army unit stationed in the area.
The Armenian Defense Ministry was quick to deny that Karapetian is a serviceman. “This is complete disinformation in the form of a cheap performance,” the ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). Hovannisian argued that his vest is very different from Armenian army uniforms.
For his part, Dovegh’s mayor, Samvel Gorginian, said that Karapetian is not a resident of his village. Nor is he known to the locals, according to Gorginian.
A man of the same name and age is included on the electoral lists of Vanadzor, an Armenian city around 130 kilometers southwest of Dovegh. The Vanadzor mayor, Mamikon Aslanian, confirmed that he is the Armenian captive paraded by the Azerbaijani military.
The mayor described Karapetian as a homeless person who “made a living collecting garbage in the city.” He too insisted that the captive did not serve in the Armenian army.
An Azerbaijani Facebook user based in Azerbaijan’s western Qazakh district bordering Tavush wrote late on Tuesday that a middle-aged Armenian man was detained by residents of a local village, Kemerli, and handed over to Azerbaijani military officials.
Three residents of Tavush strayed into Azerbaijan and were captured there in 2014. Two of them were branded Armenian “saboteurs” by the authorities in Baku and died shortly afterwards.
Karen Petrosian, a 33-year-old resident of Chinari village, was pronounced dead in August 2014 one day after being detained in an Azerbaijani village across the border. The Azerbaijani military claimed that he died of “acute heart failure.” Many in Armenia believe, however, that Petrosian was murdered or beaten to death. The United States and France expressed serious concern at Petrosian’s suspicious death and called on Baku to conduct an objective investigation at the time.
A 77-year-old resident of another Tavush village, Verin Karmiraghbyur, died in May 2014 three months after being apprehended on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier in similar circumstances. Doctors in Yerevan said the man, Mamikon Khojoyan, suffered serious injuries during his month-long captivity.
Another Armenian civilian died in Azerbaijani custody in 2010. The 20-year-old Manvel Saribekian, whose Tutujur village is also very close to the Azerbaijani border, was paraded on Azerbaijani television following his capture.
Saribekian was found hanged in an Azerbaijani detention center shortly afterwards. The Azerbaijani authorities claimed that he committed suicide. The Armenian side said, however, that Saribekian was tortured to death or driven to suicide.