Baku Insists Elderly Villager Is Armenian ‘Saboteur’

The border village of Verin Karmiraghbyur, where the elderly Armenian man crossed over into Azerbaijan

BAKU (RFE/RL)—The Azerbaijani military has stood by its claims that a 77-year-old resident of an Armenian border village captured by its forces was part of an Armenian commando unit that tried to cross into Azerbaijan this week.

Azerbaijani news agencies quoted a Defense Ministry spokesman in Baku as insisting on Wednesday that the man, Mamikon Khojoyan, acted as a guide for Armenian troops planning to carry out a cross-border incursion.

The ministry claimed earlier that Khojoyan was wounded and detained on Tuesday after Azerbaijani forces repelled the “sabotage-reconnaissance group.” Other Azerbaijani news reports said, however, that the resident of Verin Karmiraghbyur, a village in northeastern Armenia, was in fact detained by Azerbaijani villagers and handed over to military authorities.

The Armenian Defense Ministry and the mayor of Verin Karmiraghbyur village, Kamo Chobanian, have laughed off official Baku’s claims. According to Chobanian, the elderly man suffers from mental disorders and strayed into Azerbaijani territory by accident.

Uzeir Jafarov, an Azerbaijani military analyst, also dismissed the official Azerbaijani version of Khojoyan’s capture. “That man has nothing to do with the sabotage group,” he told RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani service. “He is an old man who seems to have health problems. There is not a single sign that the Defense Ministry’s claims are true.”

“The Defense Ministry had better explain why Khojoyan was caught by ordinary [Azerbaijani] villagers,” said Jafarov. “What were the Azerbaijani soldiers stationed in that area doing?”

Khojoyan was paraded on Azerbaijani television on Thursday. He was shown sitting on what looked like a hospital bed, with his right arm in a cast, and talking to the ANS channel. “I broke my arm but am fine now,” he was quoted as saying. “My arm is now healing. They are taking good care of me.”

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