YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Hundreds of Armenian prisoners of war and civilians remain in Azeri captivity nearly twelve years after the end of large-scale fighting in Karabagh–a senior Armenian Defense Ministry official said on Tuesday.
"We have information that they are used as slave labor in Azerbaijan," said Colonel Ashot Balian–a member of a ministry commission dealing missing Armenian soldiers and civilian hostages. "The Azerbaijani authorities keep moving them around and leaving no traces of them."
"I therefore can’t name any specific locations–but we are convinced that they are in Azerbaijan. Some are even said to have been relocated to Turkey," he said. "We still hope that our missing sons will return to their families one day."
The Azeri authorities have denied holding any Armenian prisoners in the past. The Red Cross–which has offices in both Baku and Yerevan–is the main international institution that arranges Armenian-Azeri prisoner exchanges and repatriations. Both conflicting armies continue to turn to it for assistance after reporting soldier disappearances.