A member of a radical Armenian opposition group charged with aiding anti-government gunmen that seized a police station in Yerevan went on a hunger strike on Friday, protesting against the authorities’ continuing refusal to release him from pre-trial detention.
Garo Yegnoukian was arrested in July during Armenian security forces’ two-week standoff with other members of the Founding Parliament movement occupying a police compound in the city’s Erebuni district. He stands accused of having assisted the gunmen by urging Armenians to rally near the besieged compound and spreading “false information” about security forces deploying armored vehicles around it.
Yegnoukian, who is a U.S. citizen, rejects the accusations as baseless and politically motivated. He has repeatedly petitioned Armenian courts to release him from custody pending investigation into the Erebuni attack. All of those petitions have been rejected.
A Yerevan court refused to free Yegnoukian on Thursday even after he offered to post $1 million bail. It also ignored written guarantees by several Armenian parliamentarians that the oppositionist will not obstruct justice if set free.
The arrested activist responded by announcing a hunger strike through his lawyer, Tigran Hayrapetian.
“This is a ridiculous and illegal judicial act,” Hayrapetian told reporters. He cited a statement by his client accusing the authorities of “inhuman treatment” of Yegnoukian.
The lawyer also condemned the authorities for refusing to allow Yegnoukian’s mother, wife and five children to visit him in jail.
The 31-member armed group demanded the release of Founding Parliament’s jailed leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, and President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation after seizing the Erebuni police facility on July 17. The authorities rejected those demands.