Sasun Mikaelian, a prominent Armenian opposition figure jailed for his role in the 2008 post-election unrest, was said to remain in poor health on Wednesday just days after undergoing his second surgery in as many months.
Mikaelian, 52, had a stent placed in his heart artery at Yerevan’s Nork-Marash heart clinic late last week. He was swiftly taken back to a prison hospital to continue to serve a highly controversial eight-year prison sentence.
His relatives and supporters say law-enforcement authorities should have given him more time to recover from the surgery. “We are told that his condition is very bad,” the oppositionist’s sister, Susanna Mikaelian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Arevik Stepanian, a Nork-Marash doctor who monitors Mikaelian’s condition through prison hospital medics, partly confirmed the information. “He has pains, breathing problems and some discomfort,” she told RFE/RL. “The complaints are not quite heart-related.”
Stepanian said Mikaelian has problems with his spinal cord and suffers from numerous wounds sustained during the 1991-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh when he commanded one of the Armenian volunteer units. She said he needs some physical exercise, a special food diet and “constant monitoring” by a qualified cardiologist.
The Ministry of Justice, which runs Armenia’s prisons, says Mikaelian can receive adequate treatment at the prison hospital in Yerevan, a claim strongly disputed by his family members and fellow war veterans affiliated with the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).
One of them, Husik Baghdasarian, charged that the “hostile treatment” of Mikaelian shows just how “vengeful and mean-spirited” the Armenian authorities are. “Why are they torturing him?” said Zhirayr Sefilian, another former field commander who himself spent more than two years in prison after challenging the authorities.
Like several other prominent allies of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian, Mikaelian was convicted in June of organizing “mass disturbances” in the wake of the February 2008 presidential election. He was also found guilty of illegal arms possession. The resulting eight-year sentence disqualified him from a general amnesty that led to the release of some 30 opposition members and supporters.
Mikaelian and Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) deny the charges as unfounded and politically motivated.