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Ailing Oppositionist Taken Back To Jail


Armenia -- Sasun Mikaelian, an opposition leader serving an 8-year prison sentence for his role in the March 2008 clashes in Yerevan.

Armenia -- Sasun Mikaelian, an opposition leader serving an 8-year prison sentence for his role in the March 2008 clashes in Yerevan.

Sasun Mikaelian, a controversially imprisoned opposition figure, was taken back to jail on Monday after more than three weeks of urgent treatment at a civilian hospital in Yerevan.


Mikaelian was taken to the Armenia Medical Center on December 4 and underwent surgery there aimed at clearing his respiratory tract shortly afterwards. He had previously spent three months in a prison hospital, complaining of increasingly serious respiratory and heart problems.

Avetik Minasian, a senior doctor at the center, told RFE/RL that law-enforcement authorities decided to send him back to the penitentiary facility on the basis of written recommendations made by several Armenia medics.

Minasian said the former opposition parliamentarian will “periodically” be brought to the civilian hospital for “prophylactic” medical examinations in the coming weeks. “Twelve days have passed since the operation and I think our intervention will be needed for two or three weeks,” he said.

The doctor said as recently as last Wednesday that the condition of Mikaelian’s heart, adversely affected by a lack of oxygen supply, remains worrisome and that he might need treatment at a cardiology clinic.

Minasian was far more cautious on that score on Monday. “I am not qualified to make conclusions or give advice on behalf of cardiologists,” he said.

The doctor also skirted a question about whether the prison hospital in Yerevan has adequate facilities for patients in Mikaelian’s condition. “Any sick person needs to stay in hospital,” he said vaguely. “Any recuperating person has the right to be in a sanatorium.”

The Ministry of Justice, which runs Armenia’s prisons, likewise declined to comment on the matter.

The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), of which Mikaelian is a prominent member, condemned his transfer to the prison, saying that it was the result of a “political decision” made by the country’s leadership. “Sasun Mikaelian should not have been unfree in the first place,” said Levon Zurabian, an HAK leader. “Sasun Mikaelian is in prison on fabricated charges and as a result of a trial ordered from the presidential palace.”

Like several other prominent allies of HAK 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 denies the charges as unfounded and politically motivated. The authorities seem unwilling to set him free despite recent appeals from two retired army generals as well as two dozen mostly pro-government members of parliament.
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