An Armenian opposition politician arrested after organizing rallies in support of a deadly attack on a police station in Yerevan is continuing a month-long hunger strike in protest against his controversial imprisonment.
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 condemned by the Armenian opposition and human rights groups.
Ghukasian and three senior members of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party were formally charged and remanded in pretrial custody on August 2. All of them except Ghukasian were released on bail in the following weeks.
Ghukasian’s lawyer, Karen Mezhlumian, said on Wednesday that he has again petitioned a district court in Yerevan to grant bail to his client. The court is scheduled to hold a hearing on the appeal on September 8, he said.
In the meantime, the lawyer went on, Ghukasian has no intention to end the hunger strike which began on July 30. He described the oppositionist’s condition as “satisfactory,” saying that it is monitored by prison doctors on a daily basis.
Ghukasian’s wife, Anahit Tarkhanian, expressed serious concern over his condition, saying that even if he stops refusing food now he will have trouble regaining his health in jail.
Ghukasian was already on a hunger strike for 29 days in the run-up to Armenia’s 2013 presidential election which he contested as a maverick candidate.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Tarkhanian also complained that neither she nor any other family member has been allowed to visit her husband in custody so far. Nor is he allowed to phone or send them letters, she said.
Zharangutyun has repeatedly demanded the release of Ghukasian and other oppositionists, describing them as political prisoners. The opposition party has also voiced support for gunmen that stormed the police facility on July 17 to demand President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation.
The gunmen affiliated with a more radical opposition group surrendered to security forces after a two-week standoff that left three police officers dead.