Several dozen people picketed prosecutors’ headquarters in Yerevan on Friday to demand that the Armenian police stop holding incommunicado 14 anti-government activists who were arrested in clashes with riot police more than a month ago.
Security forces broke up on November 5 a demonstration organized by Shant Harutiunian, a veteran nationalist activist highly critical of the Armenian government. Harutiunian vowed to storm and seize key government buildings in the capital as he led several dozen men armed with sticks, homemade stun grenades and Molotov cocktails.
The detainees, among them Harutiunian, will risk between five and ten years’ imprisonment if convicted on corresponding charges. All of them have been banned from seeing their relatives since the start of the criminal investigation overseen by prosecutors.
Some of those relatives were in the small crowd that demonstrated outside Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General. Harutiunian’s wife, Ruzanna Badalian, said she has repeatedly asked police investigators to allow her to visit him. “They haven’t given any reply,” she said.
Lusia Avetisian also has tried in vain to visit her arrested son Avetis. “I haven’t heard from him since November 5,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The protesters signed a collective letter to Prosecutor-General Gevorg Kostanian demanding the lifting of the ban. Artur Sakunts, a human rights campaigner who drew up the letter, said law-enforcement authorities have no reason to hold the men incommunicado.
“This is a really inhuman treatment,” Sakunts told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I consider it an additional punitive measure. The ban on prison visits is aimed at completely isolating Shant Harutiunian and his comrades.”
Late last month Harutiunian was transferred to a psychiatric clinic to undergo mental health tests ordered by a Yerevan court at the request of the investigators. The latter cited the fact that the activist was already released from jail in 2009 for mental health reasons. Harutiunian was among more than 100 opposition activists arrested following the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan.
Harutiunian was sent back to prison early this month. His lawyer, Inessa Petrosian, said on Friday that she has still not seen the results of the psychiatric examination.
Harutiunian’s family insists that he is not suffering from any mental disorders.