Shahen Harutyunyan, Armenian political prisoner Shant Harutyunyan’s son, invaded the pitch at the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium in Yerevan during a Euro 2016 qualifier match between Armenia and Portugal on Saturday, June 13. Harutyunyan was wearing a t-shirt with his father’s image on it, and holding a poster that read “Freedom to Shant Harutyunyan and all political prisoners of Armenia.”
Harutyunyan managed to elude about a dozen police officers for about 40-45 seconds before finally being tackled and escorted off the pitch. He was taken to the police station where he was held for one hour. Coming out of the station, he said in an interview with journalists that Cristiano Ronaldo, the best footballer in the world, was in Armenia, and the entire world's attention was focused on him, so he decided to raise the issue of political prisoners during the match.
Shahen Harutyunyan wrote on his personal Facebook page on Friday that his father, along with another political prisoner Vardan Vardanyan, had started a hunger strike at the "Vardashen" penitentiary, demanding to be transferred to an individual cell.
Following this statement, Armenian National Congress MP Nikol Pashinyan visited the prisoners on June 13. He later recounted the meeting on his Facebook page: “Shant Harutyunyan sees threats to his security and believes they derive from the leadership of the RA National Security Service (NSS), in particular, NSS Deputy Director Arzuman Harutyunyan. Vardan Vardanyan is staging a hunger strike in support of Harutyunyan.
In early June, after the sentence against them entered into force, Harutyunyan and Vardanyan were transferred to a semi-open regime cell block at “Vardashen” penitentiary, and they had been kept there up until their hunger strike. They are currently being held in solitary confinement,” Pashinyan wrote.
The MP also conveyed a message from Shant Harutyunyan to Armtimes.com: “I’ve appealed to the head of “Vardashen” penitentiary to transfer my friends and I to an individual cell, since the Russian KGB is trying to kill me through its Armenian agents; specifically, General Arzuman Harutyunyan, who is an agent of not only Russian, but also Azerbaijani KGB; and he knows that I have knowledge of that.
Based on the above-mentioned, I believe that the risk of being murdered would be minimized if I were to serve my punishment in a cell with my two friends. Even if I were killed, my friends would know, and the other prisoners would not suffer unnecessarily,” Harutyunyan said.
Nikol Pashinyan spoke to "Vardashen" penitentiary head Manuk Poghosyan, who said that the political prisoners’ security was guaranteed, and Harutyunyan’s appeal to be transferred to a cell regime would be reviewed by the RA Justice Ministry's Penitentiary Department allocation committee on Tuesday, June 16.
Recall, on October 17, 2014, Shant Harutyunyan and his 13 friends were found guilty for acts of hooliganism during a November 5, 2013 protest. Albert Margaryan and Vahe Mkrtchyan were also charged for using violence against a representative of the authorities.
Judge Mnatsakan Martirosyan sentenced Shant Harutyunyan to 6 years imprisonment, Albert Margaryan also received 6 years, Vahe Mkrtchyan – 7 years, Liparit Poghosyan – 5 years, Vardan Vardanyan – 5 years, Hayk Harutyunyan – 4 years and 6 months, Alek Poghosyan – 4 years, Mkrtich Hovhannisyan – 4 years, Armen Hovhannisyan – 2 years, Sevak Mnatsakanyan – 1 year 6 months, Tigran Petrosyan – 1 year, and Misak Arakellyan was fined fifty times the minimum salary. Tigran Petrosyan and Sevak Mnatsakanyan have already been released from jail.
The defendants do not admit guilt, noting that there were provocateurs, and plainclothes police officers incited the conflict during the rally. Several local human rights activists and international organizations have recognized the oppositionists as political prisoners.