BAKU—The Azerbaijani government in a statement on Friday criticized Washington and Paris for their condemnation of the Azerbaijani authorities’ killing of Karen Petrosian, an Armenian border villager who had wandered into Azerbaijan.
Baku’s authorities maintained that the man, killed in captivity on Aug. 8, was an “Armenian saboteur” insisting that he had crossed the border as part of a “commando group.” Eye witness testimonies from Azeri villagers who found Petrosian first, however, contradicted Baku’s assertions. Video footage shot by the residents of Azerbaijan’s Agbulaq village showed Petrosian unarmed and talking with the villagers.
On Aug. 18, the U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the death of Petrosian in captivity and calling on Baku to conduct a full investigation.
“The United States is deeply concerned by reports on the death of Karen Petrosyan while in Azerbaijan’s custody and by allegations that his death was not due to natural causes,” the statement read. “The United States offers its sincere condolences to Mr. Petrosyan’s family. We call on the Government of Azerbaijan to conduct a full and transparent investigation into this incident and to make its findings public.”
News reports showed Azerbaijani defense ministry officials dragging, questioning and publicly humiliating Petrosyan on national television. On Friday, Aug. 8, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced that Petrosian had died of “acute heart failure.”
Armenian authorities insist that the 31-year-old Petrosian did not die from natural causes, but was tortured or beaten to death.
Petrosian’s death rekindled memories of Manvel Saribekian, a 20-year-old resident of another Armenian border village who was captured by Azerbaijani soldiers in September 2010. A visibly injured Saribekian was paraded on Azerbaijani television, saying that he is a member of an Armenian commando squad that planned to carry out terrorist attacks in Azerbaijan.
Saribekian was found hanged in an Azerbaijani detention center shortly afterwards. The Azerbaijani authorities claimed that he committed suicide. The Armenian government said, however, that Saribekian was tortured to death or driven to suicide. Both the government and Saribekian’s family insisted that the young man was a civilian who accidentally crossed the Armenian-Azerbaijani border while grazing cattle.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, in its statement on Friday, urged the U.S. and France to a “principled stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict’s settlement, and to be unbiased in expressing condolences and concerns.”