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Minister Avoids Discussing Prison Issues by Bringing Up Prisoners’ Past Offences and Behavior

During the past four days, Heritage Party Faction MP Zaruhi Postanjyan has raised questions during question and answer sessions with members of government about prison issues, however, she never received any answer from Minister of Justice Hovhannes Manukyan. Postanjyan presented concrete incidents to the minister by reading out letters of prison inmates, raising the issue of overcrowding, shortages and low-quality of food, and the issue of officially not using the early release system for prisoners. Hovhannes Manukyan, instead responded to the issues by turning to the biographies of the letters' authors, saying that they have been repeat offenders or do not behave well in prison.

Yesterday, while discussing inmate Ashot Mirzakhanyan’s letter, the minister initially said that latter inmate had a few convictions, for example illegal deforestation and usury. Postanjyan responded saying that such offenses are instigated by difficult social conditions and that it did not signify that the state is not obliged to provide dignified accommodations for prison inmates. The MP added that the fact that the minister listed and stated the inmate’s offenses, instead of how many people there are in prisons, and that the lines of relatives bringing food to inmates were not getting shorter.

“The imprisoned citizen asks how many people Armenia was created for because people are suffering under debt, while every week the Judicial Acts Compulsory Enforcement Service is kicking around ten families out to the street. Surik Khachatryan has a long list of offenses, but has been appointed a governor by the Republican Party. What should we do, appeal as gangsters, so they can appoint us governors as well?” Zaruhi Postanjyan continuing to read the inmate’s letter.

The minister said that Postanjyan is trying to create a political show by raising the issue. Hovhannes Manukyan, gave a similar response to another inmate’s letter during the question and answer, Andranik Beglaryan who is imprisoned in the Sevan detention facility. Before responding to question about the system of early release, Manukyan said that the Sevan detention facility usually has repeat offenders. While the minister was unaware as to why Beglaryan’s application was not being discussed, he did not shy away from assuming that Beglaryan probably had poor behavior. “I’m assuming that the individual, regardless of what offense he’s committed, has had a behavior issue,” said Hovhannes Manukyan.