IJEVAN, Armenia (RFE/RL)—An elderly Armenian man freed by Azerbaijan was tortured during his more than month-long captivity and needs to remain in hospital for the time being, doctors and his relatives said on Wednesday.
An RFE/RL correspondent was allowed to film Mamikon Khojoyan at a hospital in the northern town of Ijevan where he was taken immediately after being repatriated by Azerbaijani authorities on Tuesday. The 77-year-old had wounds all over his body and was barely able to speak.
“There are fractures and cuts on his head, arm and left leg. They are definitely the consequence of blows,” said Emil Brutian, a senior hospital doctor.
Brutian insisted that Khojoyan suffered those injuries after crossing into Azerbaijan and being detained by military authorities there on January 28. “He wasn’t injured more than a month ago,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“He needs to be examined and undergo rehabilitation treatment for at least one week,” added the doctor. “We can’t say right now what hidden diseases we will detect a few days later.”
Khojoyan is being looked after not only by hospital staff but also some of his relatives. His daughter, Heghine Vartazarian, said she was the only family member whom he recognized after being hospitalized.
“He says he was beaten up and injected with something,” said Vartazarian. “He said he was made to lie on a concrete floor littered with salt. They tortured him. His condition is terrible.”
The Armenian Defense Ministry effectively accused the Azerbaijani authorities of torturing Khojoyan on Tuesday when it confirmed news of his repatriation arranged by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry denied those accusations. Haqqin.az quoted a ministry spokesman as saying that Khojoyan was treated “in accordance with international norms.”
Baku has claimed all along that the elderly resident of Verin Karmiraghbyur, an Armenian village close to the Azerbaijani border, was armed and acted as a guide for an Armenian “sabotage squad” that tried to carry out a cross-border incursion.
The Armenian military and the village administration have laughed off these claims, saying that Khojoyan suffers mental disorders and strayed into Azerbaijani territory by accident. Some Azerbaijani analysts have also brushed aside the official Azerbaijani version of his detention.
Khojoyan’s ordeal has rekindled memories of Manvel Saribekian, a 20-year-old resident of another Armenian border village who was captured by Azerbaijani soldiers in September 2010. Saribekian was shown by 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.
Saribekian’s body was swapped later in 2010 for an Azerbaijani man who had crossed into Armenia for apparently similar reasons.