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‘I Crawled Out of the Cell and Refused to Go Back’; Gaspari Recounts Brutal Torture in Prison

When at the Nork psychiatric hospital Wednesday, Armenian political prisoner Vardges Gaspari passed a letter to his lawyers, recounting the brutal and violent events of the first two days of his arrest. Europe in Law Association today published the letter, a direct English translation of which is presented below:

– The purpose of my arrest was to make me change my position and attitude towards the ubiquitous unlawfulness of the courts. They can, so far, record at least a partial success, since an arrest does not only envisage imprisonment, but also comprehensive application of unwritten prison laws and acceptance of the complete absence of law and order… And this scheme has also been applied to me.

Visits and interventions by parliamentarians prevented any violence against me during the first days of my stay in Nubarashen [prison]; however, after Sunday and Monday, and especially when my civil identity was revealed, [cellmates] started putting pressure on me. Confrontations began Monday evening upon entering cell N20: a cell contingent of 10-12 people told me directly I did not belong with them and had to immediately leave the cell. It then became clear that the old-timers there had the final word on everything, and a newcomer had no rights, including those to life or dignity. So, in order to avoid becoming indebted to the old-timers, I had to refuse even the most basic cell needs, such as bathing and using a bed. 

Nevertheless, the main issue still remained on the agenda: I had to get logged – who I was, where I lived, what I did, how I ended up in prison, etc… Get acquainted with the other inmates, take on jail responsibilities, i.e., join the frat…

… And since they had a pretty clear idea of my rejection of thug laws and rules, negative attitude towards me had already been formed… Anyway, the subject of face-to-face questioning brought on the first conflict, and I stood up from the table, went to the other corner of the cell and lay on the ground. This resulted in another conflict, bullying, screams, cries… and they asked me to lie down on the bench next to the table (see, they said I looked like a corpse lying on the ground, which freaked the others out). I complied with their request and lay down on the bench; thus, the confrontation was over.

The next morning I announced the start of my dry hunger strike and was then transferred to a more isolated block – to the zeroes… This process lasted until 5-6 pm; I was periodically being called in [by officials] to draw up documents and returned to the same cell N20. After a yet another return to the cell, [the inmates] told me they no longer accepted me and I had no right to enter the cell. I sat between two cells – management was demanding I enter the cell, the inmates would not allow me…

I told the management about the issue, but after a few reprimands they decided to punish me and take me to an isolation cell … we went down to the basement, and there was one self-harmed man…I remained there for about 4 minutes before being told I was being taken back to the N7 quarantine cell where I had spent the first day… The contingent was the same: 4-5 people and a couple of freshmen. The relations were normal, until they received an order from above to put pressure on me…then everything changed. They began passing notes and glances, conversing on the phone… The friendly attitude changed and I was told I could not stay there 'cause I was on a hunger strike.

They said this once, twice, three times, becoming increasingly angry, swearing at me, kicking me below the knees… I lay on the bed and they kicked my from the sides. I screamed in pain, they told me to shut up. There were 3-4 of them; the fourth one had just come out of a hunger strike and was still weak, so he did not take part in the beating, but he swore at me a few times to show that he did not at all mind what was happening.

Thus, they'd beat me with 3-4 minute breaks…it was probably past midnight, and my screams could be heard 10 meters away… inside and outside the building. But the guards did not react. Only once did they call one of the attackers by the name, asked him if everything was fine and got a positive answer…

This went on for 1-2 hours.  My cries, pleas for them to stop, to have mercy on me were too weak compared with the order they had received.

At some point, I heard the sound of a key in the lock: as they brought a new person to the cell, I threw myself out of it… crawling on the floor, I told them I would not go back in. The entire staff gathered and tried to convince me everything was fine, that I should enter the cell. I continued to crawl away from the cell, asking them not to make me go back…

They took me to the guardroom, where once again they tried to convince me to go back, promising nothing would happen to me. I refused to answer their questions at first, but when I saw they were trying to take me back to the cell, I told them everything in detail… But again, they demanded I go back, even when I lay on the ground, they brought a blanket, said 'let's put Gaspari on a stretcher and carry him back'…

It was peculiar… even after I described the violence, the torture I had been subjected to by the inmates, [the guards] still insisted and demanded I go back to the cell… 

After about [two] hours I gave in… They took me to an isolation cell. There was one person there, but I was assured he would not hurt me, would do nothing to me…