Seven inmates of a prison in Yerevan have joined a jailed critic of the Armenian government in refusing food to protest against law-enforcement authorities’ decisions not to set them free on parole.
Volodya Avetisian, a retired army colonel, began his hunger strike on Friday immediately after a state commission mainly consisting of senior law-enforcement officials again rejected his parole application filed earlier this year.
Avetisian was arrested in September 2013 five months after organizing a campaign of anti-government demonstrations demanding higher pensions for himself and other veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh war. He was subsequently sentenced to six years in prison on highly controversial fraud charges which he considers politically motivated.
Seven other inmates of Yerevan’s Vartashen prison, where Avetisian is serving his sentence, joined the hunger strike at the weekend and on Monday. Gor Ghlechian, a spokesman for a Justice Ministry department managing Armenia’s prisons, said they all were transferred to special prison cells and are now being monitored by doctors in accordance with legal requirements.
Avetisian and the other protesting prisoners say that the state body empowered to grant parole did not give any reasons for rejecting their petitions for early release from jail. Some Armenian human rights activists consider their complaints justified.
“Decisions by that supposedly independent commission cannot be appealed in any way,” said Arman Danielian, the director of the Yerevan-based Civil Society Institute. “The commission members do not even bother to substantiate them.”