Twenty-nine men serving life sentences at Armenia’s largest prison have ended a collective hunger strike which began early this week, Justice Minister Hovannes Manukian said on Thursday.
“I have appealed to them and they have ended the hunger strike,” Manukian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We have promised to look into the problem and try to find some solutions within the framework of the law.”
The Nubarashen prison inmates began the protest on Monday to demand that the authorities review their cases and legally increase their chances of regaining freedom. They cited Manukian’s failure to respond to a joint letter sent shortly after he took over as minister in May. The Justice Ministry, which runs Armenia’s penitentiary system, insisted that it did not ignore the letter.
Many of the lifers have already spent more than 20 years behind bars and feel that they can qualify for parole. Others claim that they were not convicted in fair trials and want law-enforcement and judicial authorities to review their cases.
Echoing statements by his subordinates, Manukian said that his ministry is now looking into the matter. But he would not say whether some of the lifers could be set free soon or in the next few years.
“I think we must do everything to satisfy legitimate demands,” he said. “Naturally, some of the demands may contradict our legislation and common sense.”