In a surprise move, state prosecutors have opened a criminal case in connection with opposition leader Nikol Pashinian’s claims that he was assaulted at a prison in central Armenia last November.
Pashinian alleged at the time that two masked men dressed in black woke and hit him at the Kosh prison located about 20 kilometers west of Yerevan. He said the beating stopped after attracting the attention of 18 other inmates sharing the cell with him and prison guards.
The prison administration said afterwards that it has investigated the jailed oppositionist’s claims and found them baseless. The Armenian Justice Ministry, which manages the country’s penitentiary system, also dismissed the allegations. It said mockingly that other prisoners believe the alleged beating was “Pashinian’s latest night dream.”
Nevertheless, Pashinian was placed in solitary confinement and then transferred to another jail.
Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian appears to have taken his allegations far more seriously. Hovsepian’s spokesman, Shahen Tonoyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Tuesday that he ordered subordinates on February 16 launch a criminal investigation.
Tonoyan said the inquiry conducted by the Kosh administration was flawed. He said prison officials did not question all inmates who shared a prison cell with Pashinian and take other “appropriate” measures to determine whether Pashinian was indeed assaulted.
Pashinian was sentenced last year to seven years in prison on charges of organizing the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan, a punishment both he and the Armenian opposition say is politically motivated.