By Ruzanna Stepanian
The Armenian authorities faced more protests from activists of a radical opposition party on Friday despite agreeing to hospitalize its arrested leader suffering from heart trouble.
Aram Karapetian of the Nor Zhamanakner (New Times) party was transported from the basement jail of the National Security Service (NSS) to the Erebuni Medical Center in Yerevan late Thursday after undergoing urgent medical examination by government-designated doctors.
A government department overseeing Armenia’s prisons said the next day that Karapetian was diagnosed with heart failure and will remain in the hospital for the time being. The department described his condition as “stable.”
Karapetian was hospitalized just hours after another doctor who examined him in jail this week warned that the outspoken opposition leader will risk suffering a heart attack or stroke unless he receives urgent medical treatment. The doctor, Armen Gasparian, works at a cardiology clinic of the Armenian Medical University located in the Erebuni premises. Gasparian claimed on Friday that the hospital director told him after his news conference that he will not be allowed to enter the sprawling building anymore because of visiting Karapetian and identifying himself as an Erebuni doctor.
Karapetian’s hospitalization failed to satisfy his supporters. In a statement, Nor Zhamanakner said it distrusts the doctors treating the party leader and wants him to be examined by “independent” doctors.
Hrachya Sargsian, a senior Nor Zhamanakner member, went on a public hunger strike in support of this demand on Thursday. A special police unit used force to confiscate his tent pitched near Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General the next day. A group of female party activists gathered there immediately after the incident, chanting “Aram!” and “Freedom!”
Karapetian was arrested on February 24 on charges of “false denunciation” stemming from the distribution of DVDs featuring his incriminatory questions to then President Robert Kocharian and his incoming successor, Serzh Sarkisian. His arrest was part of a broader crackdown on the Armenian opposition launched by the government in the wake of last February’s disputed presidential election.
(Photolur photo: Sargsian scuffles with police.)