A man controversially convicted in last May’s explosion of thousands of balloons during an election campaign rally in Yerevan was hospitalized on Monday for urgent surgery that will reportedly be financed by civic and opposition activists.
Serob Bozoyan, who sold thousands of gas balloons to the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) by phone that he is being examined by doctors at an oncology clinic in the capital and will be operated on soon.
Bozoyan, 54, complained of his deteriorating health condition earlier this month. He said he is in urgent need of cancer surgery but cannot afford it.
According to the presently unemployed man’s lawyer, Karen Manucharian, human rights campaigners, opposition activists and ordinary people, have since helped to raise the sum needed for his treatment.
The individuals involved in the fundraising, organized through Facebook, decry the fact that Bozoyan is the only person prosecuted in connection with the balloon blasts that seriously injured more than 150 people. They say that the HHK is primarily responsible for the grave accident.
Zara Hovannisian, an opposition activist leading the Facebook campaign, referred to Bozoyan as “yet another victim” of the HHK. “Committing a crime and blaming it on someone else is a typical Republican Party behavior,” she charged. “We want to declare that we stand by our fellow citizen.”
The HHK, meanwhile, again strongly denied any responsibility for the blasts. “What is that to do with the Republican Party? I can’t understand,” said Galust Sahakian, a deputy chairman of the party led by President Serzh Sarkisian.
“Did the Republican Party buy the balloons to disrupt its own event?” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
A Yerevan court found Bozoyan guilty of manufacturing and selling goods not meeting safety standards and sentenced him to one year in prison last month. The defendant, who was not placed under arrest during the pre-trial investigation, appealed the ruling at the weekend, meaning that he will not go to jail at least until Armenia’s Court of Appeals rules on the case.