Two dozen mostly pro-government members of Armenia’s parliament urged President Serzh Sarkisian on Monday to pardon one of their former opposition colleagues serving an eight-year prison sentence for his role in last year’s post-election violence in Yerevan.
The 21 signatories pointed to Sasun Mikaelian’s worsened health condition that led to his transfer to a civilian hospital in Yerevan last week.
“Regardless of the reasons why he was arrested, we are asking you to exercise your powers stemming from Article 55 of the Constitution and free Sasun Mikaelian from serving the rest of his sentence by means of a pardon,” the lawmakers wrote in an open letter to Sarkisian.
The Armenian president received a similar letter from two retired army generals two weeks ago. Mikaelian was transferred from a prison hospital to the Armenia Medical Center in Yerevan a few days later. He has been kept there under tight police guard since then.
The prominent oppositionist, who was stripped of his parliament mandate in October, was diagnosed with suffering from serious respiratory problems that have adversely affected his heart. He was due to undergo nasal surgery last week.
However, a senior hospital doctor, Avetik Minasian, told RFE/RL that the operation has been delayed because of an “unstable” condition of Mikaelian’s heart. Minasian said he will go under the knife on Tuesday.
The doctor also made clear that Mikaelian may well need to undergo further treatment at a specialized heart clinic after having his respiratory tract cleared. “Cardiologists will make the final conclusion one or two weeks after the operation,” he said, adding that the oppositionist should be able to “continue the treatment in liberty” because the prison hospital lacks appropriate equipment and facilities.
Like several other prominent allies of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian, Mikaelian was convicted in June of organizing “mass disturbances” in the wake of the February 2008 presidential election. He was also found guilty of illegal arms possession. The resulting eight-year sentence disqualified him from a general amnesty that led to the release of some 30 opposition members and supporters.
Mikaelian and Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress deny the charges as unfounded and politically motivated.