Pashinian put the “confirmed” total number of captives at 39 when he spoke on Wednesday about the Armenian government’s efforts to secure their release.
Siranush Sahakian, a lawyer representing Armenian POWs in the European Court of Human Rights, said he is taking at face value the number of Armenian prisoners acknowledged by Baku.
“Data and evidence possessed by our organization show that apart from these 39 prisoners the Azerbaijani armed forces also captured 80 other individuals who now have a status of the forcibly disappeared,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Sahakian charged that the Armenian government is effectively washing its hands of the 80 detainees and reducing chances of their quick repatriation.
The evidence cited by the lawyer includes videos that were posted on social media by Azerbaijani servicemen during the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh. They showed Armenian POWs who are not on Baku’s current list of captives.
Many of those POWs have been recognized by their family members. Among them is Lyuba Mkrtchian, whose husband Yuri Poghosian went missing in Karabakh in October 2020.
“I’m sure that my husband is in an Azerbaijani prison … I hope he comes back,” Mkrtchian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Speaking in the parliament, Pashinian said that the fate of the 39 other prisoners was high on the agenda of his latest meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev held in Brussels on Sunday. He complained that Aliyev keeps setting “additional conditions” for their release.
“Humanitarian issues must not be linked to political issues,” said Pashinian.
Baku released only one Armenian POW, Eduard Martirosov, as a result of the Brussels summit. The 19-year-old conscript, who accidentally crossed the Armenian-Azerbaijani border last month, was handed over to Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh on Thursday.
Most of the 38 other Armenian prisoners have received lengthy prison sentences in Azerbaijani trials condemned by Armenia as a travesty of justice. Yerevan maintains that they are held in breach of a Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the six-week war. Baku says the ceasefire agreement does not cover them because they were captured after it took effect in November 2020.