YEREVAN — An Armenian civilian was released from Azerbaijani custody and sent back to Armenia on Thursday one month after crossing into Azerbaijan in unclear circumstances.
Sargis Ananian, a 53-year-old resident of Noyemberian, a town in northern Armenia close to the Azerbaijani border, was repatriated with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Zara Amatuni, an ICRC spokeswoman in Yerevan, said he re-entered his country from the Gazakh district in western Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced Ananian’s arrest on September 1, almost one week after his disappearance. A ministry statement claimed that Ananian deliberately entered Azerbaijan because of poor living conditions at home. Armenian officials and the captive’s relatives disputed that claim, suggesting that he crossed the Armenian-Azerbaijani border by accident.
Ananian, who made no public statements immediately after his repatriation, is the fourth Armenian civilian detained in Azerbaijan so far this year. Two of those captives were branded Armenian “saboteurs” by the authorities in Baku and died shortly afterwards.
Karen Petrosian, a 33-year-old resident of Chinari village, died on August 8, the day after being detained in an Azerbaijani village across the border. The Azerbaijani military claimed that he died of “acute heart failure.” The Armenian government and many in Chinari believe, however, that Petrosian was murdered or beaten to death.
A 77-year-old resident of another Armenian village, Mamikon Khojoyan, died in May three months after being detained on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier in similar circumstances. Doctors in Yerevan said Khojoyan suffered serious injuries during his month-long captivity.