By Ruzanna Stepanian
Gagik Jahangirian, Armenia’s former prosecutor-general arrested as part of the ongoing government crackdown on the opposition, said on Thursday that he stands by his harsh attacks on the authorities and will not cut any deals with them to avoid lengthy imprisonment.
An Armenian newspaper claimed this week that he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in return for getting more lenient treatment.
“I did not and will not make deals with anyone,” Jahangirian said in a statement issued from jail. “I remain faithful to the views expressed by me and will not renounce a single word uttered by me. Or else, I would cease to be Jahangirian.”
Jahangirian publicly defied the government as he delivered a fiery speech at a rally held by opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian on February 22, three days after Armenia’s disputed presidential election. He said that the vote was blatantly rigged and referred to Ter-Petrosian as its rightful winner.
Jahangirian was sacked as deputy prosecutor-general and arrested the next evening along with his brother Vartan. A car carrying the two men was ambushed and stopped by a special police unit just outside Yerevan. The police said they were armed and planned to “destabilize the situation in the capital.” Jahangirian, who had previously served as Armenia’s chief military prosecutor, was later charged with illegal arms possession and resistance to the police.
Jahangirian denies the charges. His lawyer, Lusine Sahakian, claimed that his client is being prosecuted for his views and political activities.
Many of more than 100 other Ter-Petrosian loyalists arrested in recent weeks also consider themselves political prisoners.
According to the Armenian Justice Ministry, 16 of them continued on Thursday a collective hunger strike which they began the previous day to demand their release from jail and an end to the government crackdown. Among them are parliament deputy Sasun Mikaelian and Smbat Ayvazian, a leader of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party.
Suren Sureniants, another senior Hanrapetutyun member arrested late last month, was said to be refusing food for the tenth consecutive day. Sureniants’s lawyer, Hovik Arsenian, said he visited his client kept in Yerevan’s Nubarashen prison and urged him to end the hunger strike. “But he said he will continue the hunger strike until the authorities end his prosecution and set him free,” Arsenian told RFE/RL.