BAKU -- An Armenian man has defected to archrival Azerbaijan in a case that is sure to rankle in Yerevan.
Vahan Martirosian, who says he is the head of an NGO called Internal National Liberation Movement, told reporters in Baku on September 18 that he had requested political asylum in Azerbaijan. There is no NGO by that name in the official registry.
Martirosian slammed the policies of Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, calling them anti-Armenian, and said Azerbaijani media are the only source offering "truthful information" about the current situation in Armenia.
Martirosian claimed that he had been persecuted by Armenian authorities for his political activities and therefore decided to defect to Azerbaijan together with his wife and their toddler son.
The Armenian Investigative Committee said on September 17 after reports about Martirosian's defection started circulating in regional media that Martirosian had been added to a wanted list.
Sona Truzian, an adviser to the Armenian Investigative Committee's chairman, said that Martirosian was suspected of stealing the equivalent of $4,000 from someone in Yerevan.
Truzian also said that Martirosian had filed a complaint claiming that he and his wife had been attacked by security personnel for an Armenian lawmaker but never showed up to talk to investigators.
Armenian media outlets reported earlier that Martirosian and his wife were beaten in mid-August by bodyguards of Mher Sedrakian, a lawmaker representing the ruling Republican party in parliament.
Azerbaijani lawmaker Novella Cafaroglu said on September 17 that Martirosian arrived in Azerbaijan via Georgia, where he had been since September 4.
It is extremely rare for citizens to defect between Armenia and Azerbaijan, who fought a bloody war two decades ago over Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh and have remained in conflict ever since.
In March, Azerbaijani officials announced that an ethnic Armenian soldier from Nagorno-Karabakh had crossed over to the Azerbaijani side and asked for political asylum. The separatist military in Nagorno-Karabakh then announced that a soldier had left his post and crossed into Azerbaijani-controlled territory.
Armenia-backed separatists seized the mainly ethnic Armenian-populated region during the war in the early 1990s that killed some 30,000 people.
International diplomatic efforts to settle the conflict have brought little progress.