One of the Armenian opposition politicians arrested after organizing rallies in support of a deadly attack on a police station in Yerevan has been on a hunger strike for the past ten days, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Andrias Ghukasian, a former presidential candidate, was detained and charged with inciting “mass disturbances” after leading, together with other oppositionists, more than 1,000 protesters to Yerevan’s Sari Tagh neighborhood adjacent to the police compound late on July 29.
Riot police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowd after the organizers ignored their warnings to march back to the city center. Senior police officers said that the crowd gathered too close to the compound besieged by security forces.
More than 60 people, most of them protesters, were seriously injured and hospitalized in the ensuing crackdown. The Armenian opposition, human rights groups as well as the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan accused the police of using excessive force.
Ghukasian and three senior members of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party were formally charged and remanded in pretrial custody on August 2. They all deny the accusations as baseless and politically motivated.
According to Ghukasian’s lawyer, Yervand Varosian, the oppositionist went on a hunger strike immediately after his arrest and is continuing to refuse food.
Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, confirmed the hunger strike after representatives of his office visited Ghukasian in a Yerevan jail on Tuesday. The office cited a prison doctor as saying that Ghukasian’s health condition is “satisfactory.”
In a related development, Zharangutyun on Wednesday again demanded the immediate release of its three senior members -- Armen Martirosian, Hovsep Khurshudian and Davit Sanasarian -- and other “political prisoners.” It insisted that they on the contrary tried to prevent violence in Sari Tagh.
“The continuing detention of these three fundamental figures of our party aims to paralyze our activities and make our participation in the upcoming [parliamentary] elections pointless, and renders the elections themselves fundamentally flawed from now,” the party charged in a statement.