A resident of an Armenian border village was detained by Azerbaijani authorities after crossing into Azerbaijan in unclear circumstances at the weekend.
The Azerbaijani military claimed to have captured the 34-year-old Karen Ghazarian while thwarting an Armenian incursion into Azerbaijani territory.
The Armenian Defense Ministry was quick to deny the alleged incursion attempt, insisting that Karapetian is a civilian resident of Berdavan, a village in the northern Tavush province located just a few kilometers from the Azerbaijani border. It said he has a history of mental disease.
“He suffers from mental problems and because of that didn’t serve in the armed forces of Armenia,” Tigran Balayan, the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, insisted on Monday.
Berdavan’s mayor, Smbat Mughdusian, also said that Ghazarian lives in the local community and suffers from mental disorders. Mughdusian said he went missing shortly after midnight.
The mayor suggested that Ghazarian lost his way and accidentally crossed the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The man’s family house in the village is closest to the frontier, he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
According to Balayan, the Armenian authorities are now trying to help repatriate Ghazarian, including through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). An ICRC spokesperson in Yerevan said the ICRC is now "in a confidential bilateral dialogue with the concerned authorities with regard to the reported case."
At least two Armenian nationals are known to be currently held captive in Azerbaijan.
One of them, Zaven Karapetian, was captured in June 2014, with Baku similarly claiming to have thwarted an Armenian incursion. Yerevan dismissed that version of events, saying that Karapetian was a civilian resident in Vanadzor, an Armenian city around 130 kilometers from the border section which he crossed for still unknown reasons.
Three residents of other Tavush villages strayed into Azerbaijan 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 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.