By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Political allies of General Samvel Babayan claimed on Thursday that the health condition of the jailed former commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh army has deteriorated sharply and demanded his transfer to Yerevan for urgent medical treatment.
The leader of the opposition National Unity party, Artashes Geghamian, appealed to President Robert Kocharian to “save the life of the hero” who he said is suffering from serious lung problems.
“Samvel Babayan’s condition has drastically deteriorated,” Geghamian told reporters. “Samvel must be immediately moved to a military hospital in Yerevan.”
Babayan, who led the Karabakh Armenian forces to a military victory over Azerbaijan in the 1991-94 war, is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence in Karabakh for his alleged role in the March 2000 attempt on the life of the disputed region’s president, Arkady Ghukasian. The once powerful general has repeatedly denied any involvement in the armed attack, rejecting the charges as politically motivated.
His allies in Armenia, including Geghamian, say that he is innocent. According to Geghamian, Kocharian too believes that the ex-commander was unjustly jailed for his political ambitions.
Kocharian, who was Karabakh’s wartime leader, hinted last November that the general may eventually be granted a pardon. But speaking to reporters in Yerevan in March, Ghukasian denied that Yerevan and Stepanakert are discussing Babayan’s fate.
Still, a hard-line Armenian organization uniting veterans of the Karabakh war recently expressed confidence that Babayan will be set free soon. It urged Babayan supporters in Armenia and Karabakh to remain “patient” and avoid unspecified “extreme actions.”