YEREVAN—Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian met with Hakob Injighulian and his family on Wednesday. The Defense Minister thanked the recently returned Armenian soldier, taken captive by Azeri authorities a year ago, for his courage and patriotic behavior.
Injighulian was sent to a third country from Azerbaijan last week, from where he was then returned to Armenia.
Injighulian gave details of the inhumane treatment he received from his Azeri captors during his imprisonment.
Ohanian said he hopes Injighulian will be able to recover from the horrors of his captivity with time and treatment. He noted that the actions against Injighulian come to prove that the Azerbaijani authorities have worked out a special policy to send captives to third countries through psychological pressures, tortures and threats to life. The policy aims to supposedly show that the service conditions in the Armenian Armed Forces and the NKR Defense Army are unbearable, and that returning to Armenia is undesired. “However, with his correct and reasonable steps, Injighulyan – a common soldier of the Armenian Army – revealed the futility of the Azerbaijani policy,” he said.
Ohanian praised Injighulian’s wish to return to military service even after his heavy suffering. The Defense Minister ordered that Injighulian’s continued military service be allowed only if results from medical examinations show no danger to his well-being.
22-year-old Injighulian crossed into Azerbaijani-controlled territory east of Karabakh after losing his bearings in August 2013. Shortly afterward, he was paraded on Azerbaijani television saying that he surrendered to Azerbaijani forces because of being ill-treated by one of his commanders.
The Armenian military said that the soldier was forced to make such statements under duress. It insisted that he crossed the “line of contact” around Karabakh by accident.
Injighulian confirmed the official Armenian version of his disappearance as he spoke to reporters at Zvartnots Airport upon his return. He said he was forced to put on an Azerbaijani army uniform and allege abuse at the hands of his Armenian commanders in his televised appearance.
“There were beatings, humiliation, and verbal abuse. They said that ‘if you don’t do what we want you’ll meet the fate of that shepherd,’” Injighulian said, referring to Manvel Saribekian, a 20-year-old resident of an Armenian border village who was found hanged in an Azerbaijani prison in 2010 just weeks after wandering into Azerbaijan.
According to Injighulian, Azerbaijani military authorities also warned him beforehand against disclosing key details of his treatment to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who repeatedly visited him in custody. He claimed that Azerbaijani officials also threatened to kill him if he asks to be repatriated, rather than sent to a third country.
“They threatened to shoot me,” the soldier said. “I did all that for the sake of my life. That’s why I’m standing here right now,” he added.
Injighulian was flown from Azerbaijan to Romania in late August. He was reportedly kept in a Romanian refugee camp until returning home.