YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–An Azerbaijani soldier has been taken prisoner after crossing into Armenian-controlled territory north of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Karabakh Armenian military announced over the weekend.
In a short statement, the Karabakh Defense Army said Roman Huseynov, a 25-year-old Azerbaijani army sergeant, surrendered to its forces late on Friday.
Citing the results of a “preliminary inquiry,” it said Huseynov did so because of being subjected to “regular humiliating actions” by his commanders. “Details of the incident are being clarified,” added the statement.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry did not refute or confirm the report as of Monday evening. News reports from Baku said on Monday the local office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICCR) has asked its counterparts in Armenia to verify the information.
Over the past few years, both Armenia and Karabakh and Azerbaijan have reported instances of enemy soldiers crossing the heavily fortified Armenian-Azerbaijani frontline to escape hazing at the hands of their commanders and fellow servicemen.
As recently as last April, Armenia repatriated an Azerbaijani army conscript, Rafik Hasanov, who was captured on the westernmost section of its long border with Azerbaijan in October 2008. The handover, facilitated by the Red Cross, occurred more than one year after Hasanov was shown on Armenian state television saying that he will not return home “because they beat and humiliate me there” and wants to stay in Armenia for good. Another soldier detained in the same area, Yagub Mukhtarov, was sent home earlier in 2008.
Azerbaijani soldiers returning from Armenian captivity routinely face prosecution and lengthy prison sentences. One of them, Vusal Garajayev, was sentenced in May 2007 to 11 years in prison on charges of high treason and desertion. Karabakh Armenian authorities had handed over Garajayev to Azerbaijan in December 2006, the day before another Azerbaijani conscript, Samir Mammadov, reportedly crossed into Armenia and was taken prisoner.
Mammadov was deported, with the ICCR’s help, to an undisclosed country in Europe in February 2008. Armenian military officials said he did not want to return home for fear of government retribution.
At least four Armenian soldiers are known to have ended up in Azerbaijani territory in similar circumstances. Three of them — Hrant Markosian, Artush Sargsian and Alik Tevosian — were taken prisoner on the main Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” east of Karabakh in February 2009. The other soldier, Paruyr Simonian, reportedly fled to Azerbaijan from Armenia proper in July 2008.
The Azerbaijani military has repeatedly broadcast and posted on the Internet video of the four prisoners of war alleging corruption and hazing in the Armenian army ranks and expressing their desire to move to a third country.
Their most recent videotaped statements were circulated about a month ago. The Armenian Defense Ministry condemned that as a gross violation of the 1929 Geneva Convention that bans any public display of POWs. It also claimed that they were coerced into making embarrassing allegations against the Armenian military.