The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Friday that its representatives are trying to visit an Armenian soldier who was taken prisoner by Azerbaijani forces near Nagorno-Karabakh this week.
The 19-year-old conscript, Arayik Ghazarian, was detained on Monday after crossing the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh in still unclear circumstances.
The Azerbaijani military said Ghazarian claimed to have deserted his unit because of being systematically mistreated by his comrades. Armenia’s Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan denied that, saying that that the soldier probably strayed into Azerbaijani-controlled territory by accident.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee launched a criminal inquiry into both desertion and hazing in connection with the incident. No servicemen of Ghazarian’s unit have been charged or detained so far, according to the law-enforcement body
The Armenian side also asked the ICRC to help free and repatriate Ghazarian. The ICRC responded by requesting permission to visit the Armenian prisoner of war in custody.
A spokeswoman for the IRCR office in Yerevan Zara Amatuni, said the Red Cross has not yet been granted access to him. “ICRC representatives’ dialogue with representatives of relevant authorities with regard to visiting that person is continuing at the moment,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian. “The process is still in progress.”
The Turan news agency reported that Azerbaijan’s human rights ombudsman has met with Ghazarian and that the latter did not complain about his detention conditions or treatment by Azerbaijani authorities.