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Family of Jailed Armenian Conscript Fear He Might Kill Himself in Prison

An Ashtarak woman has written an appeal letter to Armenia's Prosecutor General Gevorg Kostanyan, requesting his assistance in freeing her son, a former soldier of the Nagorno-Karabakh (NKR) Defense Army, from “unfounded” criminal prosecution and incarceration.

Speaking to Epress.am, Alvard Sahakyan said that her son, Sargis Sahakyan, was drafted into the NKR army on June 23, 2014. During the first month of service the conscript injured his right knee in the course of physical training and had to undergo a long-term treatment at the military hospital. On May 9, 2015, however, Sahakyan was discharged from the hospital and transferred back to the military unit without having been fully cured. Two days later, the unit commander assigned Sahakyan to combat duty and was subsequently reprimanded for it.

“Not even having reached the assigned military positions, my son, who was in a depressive and irritated mood because of the pain in his knee, inadvertently shot himself in the left leg. He then shot a few rounds from his rifle so that his fellow servicemen could find him and come to rescue. The investigation subsequently viewed this circumstance as a 'waste of ammunition',” the mother wrote in her letter to Kostanyan.

Three days following the incident, criminal proceedings were initiated pursuant to Part 1 of Article 363 of the Armenian Criminal Code (temporary evasion from military service by a serviceman through self-mutilation) and Part 2 of Article 371 (embezzlement or waste of weapons or ammunition). Authorities, however, did not press official charges against the soldier, and he was deemed unfit for service and demobilized shortly after being sent for treatment first to the Martakert military hospital and then to the Central clinical military hospital of Yerevan.

On January 14, 2016, Sargis Sahakyan was summoned to the Martakert Investigation Division, where he was charged under Part 4 of Article 363 (self-mutilation by a serviceman with the purpose of total exemption from military service), Part 2 of Article 371, and Part 1 of Article 268 (illegal manufacture, processing, procurement, purchase, storage or supply of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances without the purpose of sale). Sahakyan was taken into pre-trial custody on the same day and taken to a Shushi jail. The drug-related charges, as the mother told Epress.am, were added since investigation had allegedly found Tramadol pills – a psychotropic substance – in Sahakyan's possession. 

In an interview with Epress.am, the soldier's sister, Liana Sahakyan, said she saw her brother for about three minutes on January 29 and that that his health condition was "grave." He has already undergone 4 surgeries following the knee injury, she added, and used crutches prior to his arrest. 

“Sargis told me his wound has become inflamed and formed pus, but he is not provided adequate medical care. His life is in danger, and we're fighting to at least get him released on bail so that he can receive proper treatment. He has done nothing to warrant such cruel treatment,” Liana said. 

The family's letter to the General Prosecutor also stresses that the soldier was in an unbalanced mental and psychological state at the time of the incident as also indicated by the military medical examination, which states that “Sahakyan had a temporary mental disorder of a depressive nature, paired with aggressive behavior and depressive affect.” The family fear that the former soldier's current troubled state could lead him to commit imprudent suicide in the penitentiary institution.