Relatives of the 52 life-term prisoners who've declared an indefinite hunger strike in Yerevan's Nubarashen penitentiary held a protest action in front of the Armenian Government's building on Thursday, October 15, condemning “the authorities' total neglect” of the inmates' demands. The relatives threatened to join the prisoners' hunger strike if the lifers' cases are not reviewed and their sentences revisited.
Speaking to reporters, the demonstrators said many of the prisoners received life-term sentences for crimes they did not commit, others were handed down a disproportionate punishment. The prisoners' relatives also expressed their annoyance about the media, namely TV's indifference to the issue. Armenian TV networks, protesters said, provide coverage on international criminal cases and sentencings; however, they do not wish to televise the hunger strike in their own country.
14 of the prisoners were sentenced to a life in prison for crimes committed in the military. A three-month conscript Emil Zivtchyan is just one such case. His mother, Varsenik Ghazaryan, said in an interview with Epress.am she demanded that her son's case be reviewed since “the murder allegations were not supported by a sufficient amount of substantiating evidence.”
Inmate Aren Chatinyan, a resident of the town of Agarak in Armenia's Lori province, also received a life sentence on murder charges. “They took my son's [nail-to-nail fingerprint data] which had no relation to the evidence from the crime scene. The cigarette butts on the scene also did not match the kind [of cigarettes my son smokes]. Let them revise the case; if they prove his guilt, I'll shut up,” Chatinyan's mother, Alla Martirosyan said.
Protester Marine Badalyan, the mother of inmate Vagharshak Avetisyan also convicted of murder, said that her son had been beaten by the prosecutor of Goris. The letter, as stated by the woman, is the brother of Armenia's former Ombudsman, currently judge representing Armenia in ECHR Armen Harutyunyan.
“He used to say 'Who are you going to complain to? To the [human rights defender]? Well, he’s my brother.’ I’d go to a shop in Goris where people did not know I was Vagharshak’s mother, and they’d say how surprised they were [my son] would not take the blame after so much beating. The prosecutor urged my son to plead guilty, and they'd give him 15-20 years. He denied the accusations until the end,” Badalyan stated.