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Hospital Refuses to Treat Jailed Oppositionist In Fear of Authorities, Lawyer Says

Opposition activist Gevorg Safaryan, who was last month sentenced to two years in prison for assaulting a police officer, has been having some health problems lately, and his family is trying to organize his transfer from Yerevan’s Nubarashen jail to a civilian hospital. Safaryan’s brother, Armo Safaryan, said in a Tuesday conversation with Epress.am they have already been granted a written permission by Arsen Hambardzumyan, deputy head of the Penitentiary Department of Armenia’s Ministry of Justice, according to which, a physician from a civilian hospital can pay the oppositionist a visit in prison.

“Gevorg needs to receive an X-ray test. The doctor’s visit is just a means to confirm that Gevorg needs to be taken to hospital for medical examinations,” Armo Safaryan said.

Izmirlian Medical Center MD Hayk Avagyan had had agreed to go to the prison and examine Safaryan’s injured knee. According to Arno Safaryan, however, Izmirlian deputy director Tigran Nalbandyan subsequently refused to allow the doctor to visit Safaryan.

“He said he would not allow his doctor to enter a closed facility as ‘there is no procedure for that and it is against the law.’ They will only send a doctor if there is a corresponding appeal from the Convicts’ Hospital,” the brother stated.

When contacted by Epress.am for comment, Tigran Nalbandyan said; “They had come here and wanted to take the doctor away. What kind of director would allow his doctor to be taken away just like that? They have medical departments at the penitentiary institution, and there is also the Convicts’ Hospital with its; they are perfectly capable of organizing [the treatment] there. If [the family] has complaints, they can contact the justice ministry or it’s penitentiary department. We’ll examine [Safaryan] should there be a corresponding request [from the authorities].”

Gevorg Safaryan’s lawyer, Tigran Hayrapetyan, for his part, told Epress.am that the refusal to provide medical treatment is a criminally punishable act; “We hope that a criminal case will be initiated based on the media publications, and the investigation will establish whether there have been any procedural errors on our part. We have taken all the proper steps: appealed to the penitentiary department, received a permission from them, set a date with the doctor; and all of a sudden the doctor says [on Monday] he will not show because he is afraid he will have problems with the hospital administration if he does.”

According to the lawyer, the incident clearly shows that medical facilities in Armenia are afraid of political pressure; “The fear of authorities is so entrenched that they refuse to provide treatment to a political prisoner. The director of the medical center has decided to reject our appeal in order to please the Minister of Health.”