By Ruzanna Stepanian
Nearly all of more than two dozen jailed oppositionists claiming to be political prisoners ended their collective hunger strike on Friday following the previous day’s appeal from opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian, a spokesman at the Ministry of Justice said.
Arsen Babayan, a media relations officer at the Ministry’s Penitentiaries Department, told RFE/RL that among those who quit hunger strikes are Member of Parliament Hakob Hakobian, Chairman of the Board of the former ruling Armenian all-National Movement party Ararat Zurabian, former Deputy Minister of National Security Gurgen Yeghiazarian, former Deputy Speaker of Parliament Karapet Rubinian, and others.
Only two out of 23 oppositionists reportedly continued their hunger strikes as of Friday afternoon. One of them, leader of the Democratic Homeland party Petros Makeyan, who before that refused both food and water, reportedly stopped abstaining from drinking. The other, Harutyun Urutsian, later was also reported to have stopped refusing food.
Vartuhi Elbakian, the lawyer of three of the jailed oppositionists, said to RFE/RL that her clients Ararat Zurabian, Gurgen Yeghiazarian and Petros Makeyan had told her they would temporarily suspend their action on Friday, but stressed that their demands that political persecutions be stopped, all political prisoners be released and an independent inquiry be launched into the March 1 deadly clashes between police and opposition protesters were still valid. The lawyer quoted her clients as warning that they would restart their hunger strikes unless their demands were met.
Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian on Thursday urged his jailed supporters to end their protest action and spare themselves for “further struggle”.
In a statement the former president appreciated “the feat of the hunger strikers” but said their “health, unbending will and determination” would be required at later stages of the struggle.