BAKU: Armenian Serviceman Defects To Azerbaijan


July 24 2008

An Armenian serviceman has defected to Azerbaijan to escape "torture"
in his army.

The serviceman, identified as Paruyur Stepanyan, met representatives
of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Baku.

"I told the Red Cross representatives that I am renouncing Armenian
citizenship," the soldier told ANS. "I said that I do not want to
return to Armenia. I asked them to help the Azerbaijani government
transfer me to a third country."

Rovsan Maharramov, head of the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry’s military
police, said that Stepanyan is an Armenian citizen and therefore he
did not want to serve in Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagornyy
Karabakh. Stepanyan also fled to escape beatings and harassment in
his army, Maharramov told ANS.

Editor’s note: Reports of defection of servicemen are viewed as part of
a propaganda war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which are technically
at war. In December 2006, Armenia said an Azerbaijani soldier, Samir
Mammadov, had defected to the Armenian side to escape harassment in
his army. Mammadov allegedly asked for asylum in a third country. He
has not yet returned home.