By Ruzanna Stepanian and Hovannes Shoghikian
Aram Karapetian, one of several dozen opposition politicians arrested in the wake of Armenia’s presidential election, was released from pre-trial detention on Monday ten days after being hospitalized with serious heart problems.
State prosecutors agreed to free Karapetian pending trial at the request of his lawyer, Harutiun Baghdasarian. The latter thanked them for what he called a gesture of good will.
“They took into account the fact that Aram Karapetian has health problems and is undergoing treatment,” Baghdasarian told RFE/RL.
Karapetian is the leader of the Nor Zhamanakner (New Times) party, one of more than two dozen opposition groups that supported former President Levon Ter-Petrosian in the recent presidential election. He was arrested on February 24 on charges of “false denunciation” stemming from the distribution of DVDs featuring his incriminatory questions to then President Robert Kocharian and his incoming successor, Serzh Sarkisian. The outspoken oppositionist denies the charges as politically motivated.
Karapetian was transferred from a basement jail in central Yerevan to the Erebuni hospital on May 15 after being diagnosed with heart failure. One doctor warned that he will risk suffering a heart attack or stroke unless he receives urgent medical treatment.
According to Baghdasarian, the oppositionist’s condition has since improved. “He is on the mend,” said the lawyer, adding that Karapetian will remain in the hospital for now.
Just four days after the hospitalization, a Yerevan court agreed to allow prosecutors to keep Karapetian under arrest for two more months.
In a related development, Armenia’s Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a controversial 18-month prison sentence given to another arrested oppositionist, Hovannes Harutiunian. The latter was one of Ter-Petrosian’s proxies in Yerevan’s Arabkir district on election day.
Harutiunian was jailed for keeping 30 bullet cartridges at home. Prosecutors claim that he bought and possessed the ammunition illegally. Both the Court of Appeals and a district court in Yerevan dismissed Harutiunian’s assurances that he had purchased it for his hunting rifle registered with the police.
“I consider myself a political prisoner,” Harutiunian declared before the announcement of the appeals court ruling. “I supported, support and will support Levon Ter-Petrosian,” he added to rapturous applause from dozens of opposition supporters attending his trial.