In a prisoner swap facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Armenia and Azerbaijan freed on Friday two civilian citizens of each other’s country.
The freed Armenian, Zaven Karapetian, crossed into Azerbaijan from Armenia’s northern Tavush region in unclear circumstances two years ago. The 45-year-old man was detained and paraded on Azerbaijani television, with the Azerbaijani military claiming to have captured him while thwarting an Armenian incursion.
The Armenian government strongly denied that, saying that Karapetian is a civilian resident of Vanadzor, a city around 130 kilometers from a section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border crossed by him.
For its part, Armenia repatriated Elvin Ibrahimov, a 33-year-old villager from Azerbaijan’s western Gazakh district bordering Tavush. He crossed the Armenian border in March this year.
Armenian soldiers shot and wounded Ibrahimov before detaining him. He spent several weeks in Armenian hospitals.
The prisoner exchange was most probably the result of confidence-building understandings reached during high-level negotiations held by Armenia and Azerbaijan in the last several months. The foreign ministers of the two countries met in Washington as recently as on June 20.
At least one Armenian national remains in Azerbaijani captivity. Karen Ghazarian, a 34-resident of the Tavush village of Berdavan, was detained in Azerbaijan in July 2018. Like Karapetian, he was accused of being a member of an Armenian commando unit.
In February, an Azerbaijani court sentenced Ghazarian to 20 years in prison on charges of plotting “terrorist attacks” and “sabotage” in Azerbaijan. His trial was reportedly held in closed session.
Yerevan condemned the ruling and demanded Ghazarian’s immediate release. It said he has a history of mental disease and never served in the Armenian army because of that.
Three residents of other Tavush villages strayed into Azerbaijan in 2014. Two of them were branded Armenian “saboteurs” by Baku and died shortly afterwards.