An IDF soldier who immigrated to Israel from Armenia as a child was “rescued” from Armenia overnight Wednesday, according to the Israeli daily Maariv.
Arik Martoyan became entangled in bureaucratic red tape in his country of origin during a family visit when local authorities said he was eligible for the country’s military draft and would be required to complete his mandatory service before being allowed to leave the country back to Israel.
Martoyan moved to Israel with his family when he was five years old. Now serving in the IDF, he was given permission by the army to travel to Armenia six weeks ago to study his family roots.
Since being told he could not leave, Martoyan has been fighting to return to Israel. He has charged that Israeli officials were not doing enough to help him. He has also been in contact with his commanders in Israel’s air force to seek their assistance.
“The claim by the army is that I need to say here and serve for two years,” Martoyan told Channel 2 earlier this month. “I tried to speak with every possible authority, but no one can help me. Everyone is avoiding me.”
Not everyone, apparently. According to Maariv, Martoyan was “rescued” in a “dramatic operation last night that was planned over the last few days.”
He was on a plane bound for Israel on Thursday, the paper reported.
It is not yet clear who carried out the “rescue,” or how Martoyan was able to board an outbound flight. Armenian officials, including the country’s deputy foreign minister, had said they would attempt to help him, and may have been involved in helping to obtain his apparent release.
Attorney Eyal Platek, who had taken on Martoyan’s case, claimed that it was the responsibility of the IDF to check if any of its soldiers are eligible for military or other mandatory national service in a foreign country before they visit there.
An IDF source said the army didn’t know he was an Armenian citizen and that he would be required to carry out national service in his home country.
Before Martoyan’s release, the Foreign Ministry had said in a statement that it was “aware of the case and it is being dealt with by the relevant authorities” in the ministry.
“A month ago the soldier contacted the Israeli ambassador in Armenia, Shmuel Meirom, and gave him the details of the case,” the ministry added. “After receiving the details, the Israeli consul in Georgia, who is responsible for consular matters in Armenia, began acting vis-a-vis the Armenian authorities in order to help.”
The Foreign Ministry said it had approached the Armenian deputy foreign minister, who agreed to help deal with the matter.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.