The mother of an Armenian soldier arrested on charges of trying to evade military service went on hunger strike outside a key government building in Yerevan on Thursday to demand his immediate release from jail.
The soldier, Ruben Mikaelian, was taken into custody in late March after reportedly cutting his veins at his military unit stationed in the southeastern Syunik province. Military prosecutors say he did that in the hope of being demobilized from the armed forces.
Mikaelian’s mother, Shamiram, strongly denied the official theory as she announced the hunger strike after several days of lone protests outside Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s office. She said that in fact the 19-year-old tried to commit suicide after being systematically ill-treated by his two immediate commanders.
“My son stayed in that humiliating condition for several months,” a sobbing Shamiram Mikaelian told reporters. She said the beatings began in December after her son gave testimony to military officials investigating a violent dispute that had occurred at the army unit.
Shamiram’s mother was also present at the protest. She felt unwell at one point and was hospitalized from the scene.
Two officials from Sarkisian’s staff and the Defense Ministry approached Mikaelian, asking her to visit the ministry’s Investigative Department with them. But she refused to go there without a lawyer, heeding advice from a dozen other women demonstrating outside the government building.
Those women are the mothers of soldiers who died as a result of hazing and other non-combat incidents in recent years. They believe that military authorities have covered up those deaths. The authorities deny that.