Vardan Vardanyan, an oppositionist who was sentenced to 5 years in prison for hooliganism for his part in a 2013 anti-government protest initiated by Shant Harutyunyan, has been on an open-ended hunger strike for over 20 days in a show of support for all political prisoners and other wrongfully convicted persons in Armenia, the prisoner’s son, Tigran Vardanyan, said in a conversation with Epress.am on Saturday.
“There are so many innocently convicted people who did not get the chance to celebrate the New Year with their families. That’s what he is protesting,” Vardanyan told our reporter, adding that his father is feeling well and is currently being held in a separate cell designated for hunger-strikers.
Earlier, Gor Ghlechyan, a spokesperson for the penitentiary department at Armenia’s Justice Ministry, had announced that Vardan Vardanyan had gone on a hunger strike to demand pardons for all the prisoners currently awaiting clemency on the occasion of Armenian Army Day, January 28.
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.