Grieving relatives of the Armenian man who died in Azerbaijani captivity last week joined official Yerevan on Thursday in insisting that he was a civilian, not a saboteur as claimed by Azeri authorities.
Manvel Saribekian was taken hostage on September 11th and was killed in an Azerbaijani detention facility. The Azerbaijani authorities claimed that the 20-year-old committed suicide and had no traces of violence on his body. Armenian officials dismissed these claims, saying that he was tortured to death or “driven to suicide.”
Saribekian was a civilian resident of Tutujur, a border village in the northeastern Gegharkunik province. Speaking to RFE/RL, relatives of the killed captive said he was demobilized from the Armenian army four months ago. They say he crossed a nearby section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier by accident, while looking after the family’s sole cow.
“Please, bring my son back dead or alive,” cried Balian. “This is all I am asking for … My heart tells me that my child is alive.”
Whether the body will be sent back to Armenia anytime soon is not yet clear. The International Committee of the Red Cross reiterated through a Yerevan spokesman that it is holding “confidential” negotiations on the matter with Azerbaijani officials.