Tigran Postanjian, who worked for the administration of Yerevan’s Arabkir district, was arrested in late February on charges of receiving 100,000 drams ($275) to turn a blind eye to illegal construction carried out by a local resident.
He went on trial last month following a criminal investigation conducted by Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS). The NSS, which is the Armenian successor to the Soviet KGB, normally handles far more serious criminal cases.
The suspect strongly denies the accusations, linking them with the political activities of his prominent sister, Zaruhi Postanjian, who is affiliated with Zharangutyun. Both she and her party have likewise accused the Armenian authorities of fabricating the case to intimidate and silence her. Law-enforcement authorities dismiss these claims.
Tigran Postanjian went on a hunger strike three weeks ago, shortly after the start of his trial. He is still reportedly refusing food at Yerevan’s Nubarashen prison.
The protest was organized by Zharangutyun outside the court in connection with a number of amendments to the Criminal Code that were passed by the Armenian parliament earlier this month. One of them abolished a clause under which Postanjian has been prosecuted.
According to the protesters, this means that the prosecutors should automatically free the suspect and investigate the case anew.
“This law took effect on May 25,” Zaruhi Postanjian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Therefore, this is sufficient grounds for discontinuing the criminal prosecution.”
The Office of the Prosecutor-General declined to comment on the validity of this argument. A spokesman referred all inquiries to the court, saying that the decision on whether or not to free Postanjian will be made by the judge in the case, Artur Mortician.
Mkrtchian has already received a corresponding petition from the suspect’s lawyer. It is not yet known when he will respond to it.
The protesters also expressed concern about Postanjian’s health. They claimed that he is not receiving adequate medical assistance at Nubarashen.
A spokesman for a Justice Ministry department managing Armenia’s prisons, Arsen Babayan, denied that, saying prison doctors are constantly monitoring Postanjian’s health condition. Babayan also told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that a doctor chosen by the Postanjian family visited the detainee late last week.
Zaruhi Postanjian, 39, rose to prominence as a trial attorney before being elected to the National Assembly on the Zharangutyun ticket in 2007. She has been a vocal critic of the Armenian authorities’ human rights record.