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Relatives Stage Protest in Support of Armenian Lifers on Hunger Strike

Relatives of the convicts serving life sentences in Yerevan's Nubarashen prison who've gone on an open-ended hunger strike three days ago staged a protest on December 17 in front of the Armenian Government building demanding revision of their relatives' cases, fulfillment of the lifers' 10 demands, as well as a meeting with Justice Minister Arpine Hovhannisyan.

The protesting relatives were unable to tell reporters the exact number of hunger strikers; they said that according to the information available to them, there could be as many as 48 inmates protesting.

Convict Vagharshak Avetisyan's mother, Marine Badalyan, told Epress.am that they at least wanted journalists to be allowed to meet the convicts and hear their demands: “Why are they transferring [the prisoners] to Hoktemberyan (“Armavir” penitentiary)? They are supposedly improving the conditions, but no one has even complained about them. Everyone is against the transfer because it's more convenient [to visit] them at [Nubarashen jail]; besides, the guys do not have complaints about the conditions. [Authorities] have spent billions on alleged reforms… They should reform the law which sentences both a person who's killed 4 people and those like my son who've only killed one person to life imprisonment. People should be given an opportunity to prove they've changed.”

The lifers' relatives warned that if ignored further, they will resort to “extreme measures.” One of the women announced her readiness to commit self-immolation.

Having received no response from the Government or the Minister of Justice, the protesters decided to continue their protest action in front of the RA National Assembly. The relatives said they intended to write more appeals to the Government, the Parliament and the Justice Ministry, after which they'll discuss further action.