Armenian Detainee ‘Commits Suicide’ in Azerbaijani Detention

Armenian Detainee ‘Commits Suicide’ in Azerbaijani Detention

Manvel Saribekyan, an Armenian detainee in Azerbaijan, allegedly committed suicide on Oct. 5 at 3 a.m., according to a joint statement issued by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry and the Military Republican Prosecutor’s office.

Officers from the Military Republican Prosecutor’s office and forensic experts “accompanied by witnesses” reportedly concluded that Seribekyan used a shirt and a sheet to hang himself in his detention cell. The marks on his neck are typical of asphyxiation by strangulation; no other injuries were found on his body.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry has issued a statement blaming Azerbaijan for Saribekyan’s death, as well as the lack of international pressure to secure prisoner rights in Azerbaijan.

“The RA [Republic of Armenia] Defense Ministry lacks any reason to believe the [Azerbaijani] version of the young Armenian’s death and voices concern over it; and considers his detainer, the state of Azerbaijan, fully responsible for the tragic death of M. Saribekyan. We urge international bodies, especially the International Committee of the Red Cross, to look into this gross violation of international human rights principles, specifically, the Convention on treatment of prisoners of war, which jeopardizes the OSCE Minsk Group’s efforts to come to a peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict… Once again Azerbaijan has taken criminal steps, without facing proper condemnation from international structures. It is that lack of punishment which has killed our compatriot who was unprotected by international norms.”

Saribekyan was captured on Sept. 11 on the Azerbaijani side of the border. The Armenian Defense Ministry said he was a shepherd who wandered off onto dangerous territory.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry insisted that Saribekyan was a member of a “sabotage group” that had crossed the border to blow up a school in the Azerbaijani village of Zamanli, and that Saribekyan was the only one in the group to be arrested. The others allegedly managed to escape.

A clip of Saribekyan “confession” while in captivity was posted on YouTube.

“Presenting the lost shepherd who was looking for his missing cattle as a member of ‘diversion’ group is another plain step by Azerbaijani propaganda machine. Expert assessment of the video allows [us] to conclude that the video was filmed under physical and psychological pressure and with the use of special methods,” the Armenian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Azerbaijan has been demanding the return of the body of Mubariz Ibrahimov, an Azerbaijani soldier, who was killed during an Azerbaijani attack on a Karabagh Army outpost on June 19, which claimed the lives of four Armenian soldiers.

In July, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called Ibrahimov a “national hero,” and ordered a school and a street to be named in his honor.

The Armenian side has maintained that they are not in possession of the body. Meanwhile a spokesman for Karabagh President Bako Sahakian said that Ibrahimov died in “neutral territory,” and that’s where Azerbaijan should search for it.

Azerbaijan has made continuous demands for the body of the dead soldier, and has appealed to international organizations like the Red Cross without any luck.

During the last week of September, Eldar Sabiroglu, a spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, related a conversation between Defense Minister Safar Abiyev and Pascale Meige Wagner, the Red Cross head of operations for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. According to Sabiroglu, Abiyev said that “the Armenians’ behavior toward prisoners of war and the remains of killed soldiers is not motivated by humanitarian principles but by revenge.”

“Even Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan demanded the release of Saribeekyan [sic], though he was not a serviceman. It seems that this pig in a poke gives them no rest. Armenia should not delay the return of soldiers’ remains, because their current inhumanity may set an undesirable precedent,” said Sabiroglu.

There is speculation that Azerbaijan will now attempt to negotiate an exchange of Saribekyan’s body with Ibrahimov’s.

By: Nanore Barsoumian

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