Another Armenian Civilian Captured by Azerbaijan

The article was published on Focus on Karabakh, a project of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies

In the morning of June 21, the Azerbaijani defense ministry issued a statement claiming that its forces “prevented an Armenian sabotage attempt” the previous evening, capturing one Armenian. Shortly after, the Armenian defense ministry spokesman denied any such attempt or capture of any of its servicemen.

Hours later, Azerbaijani media published a video of a man identified as 43-year-old Zaver (sic) Karapetyan, who, apparently reading a prepared text, said he was from the village of Doveg, near the Armenian town of Noyemberian in northeastern Armenia on the border with Azerbaijan. He said he was a “village teacher,” but also claimed he worked for the Armenian military. In video images of interrogation released Karapetyan wore civilian attire with a tie, with a military vest full of machine gun magazines on top. The vest’s camouflage pattern was similar to the one used by Azerbaijani, rather than Armenian military.

Armenian man captured in Azerbaijan. Video image grab released by Azerbaijani governmentLocal officials in Dovegh quickly denied anyone by the name of Zaver (or more likely Zaven) Karapetyan lived in their village. Soon after, Armenian media outlets determined that a 43-year old by that name was resident of Vanadzor, about 100 kilometers from Dovegh, but had not been seen in the city for several years. Karapetyan is said to have been raised in an orphanage in the Yerevan district of Nubarashen. In the early 1990s, the Charles Aznavour foundation provided him with housing in Vanadzor, but some time later Karapetyan became homeless.

Writing in his Facebook account in the evening of June 20, Gazakh-based NGO activist Xamis Masimov claimed that hours earlier local residents in the border village of Kemerli of Gazakh district (located a few kilometers from Dovegh) had apprehended an Armenian civilian, who was later taken into custody by Azerbaijani armed forces. Since the publication of the defense ministry statement, Masimov’s posting is no longer visible on his Facebook page.

It is unclear under what circumstances the man ended up crossing onto the Azerbaijani side of the border, but shortly before his apprehension the area experienced a hail storm and strong winds, possibly causing him to lose his way.

In recent years, the Azerbaijani government had detained a number of Armenian civilians, charging them with ‘sabotage.’ Most such cases occur not in Karabakh, but in northeastern Armenia / northwestern Azerbaijan (see map), where dozens of Armenian and Azerbaijani settlements are located in close proximity. Below are some of those cases and their outcomes. 

Name, age                                    Date of detention             Outcome

Arsen Baghdasaryan,                     20 12/26/2014           Currently imprisoned
Karen Petrosyan, 32                       8/7/2014                    Died in custody, 8/8/2014
Mamikon Khojoyan, 77                  1/27/2014                 Released 3/5/2014, died 5/20/2014
Manvel Saribekyan, 20                   9/11/2010                 Died in custody, 10/5/2010
Armen Badalyan, 31                       5/9/2009                   Exchanged for military prisoner 3/17/2011