A group of women who had lost their newborn babies in disputed circumstances rallied outside Armenia’s Office of Prosecutor-General on Friday to demand the arrest of five individuals accused of illegally organizing adoptions of Armenian children by foreigners.
The bereaved mothers were told by doctors years or even months ago that they gave birth to stillborn babies.
They say that they were never shown the bodies of the newborns and believe the latter were born alive and sold to foreign adoptive parents. They point to the findings of a criminal investigation launched by Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) and resulting arrests made by another law-enforcement body in December.
The arrested persons included the head of Armenia’s largest maternity hospital, Razmik Abrahamian, his deputy Arshak Jerjerian and the director of a Yerevan-based state orphanage, Liana Karapetian. They were charged with having forced over a dozen pregnant women to abandon their babies subsequently adopted by foreign nationals in 2016-2018 in return for bribes.
Despite the grave accusations, district courts in Yerevan ordered these and the two other suspects released from custody a few days later. Abrahamian was freed unconditionally while the others were granted bail.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General announced on Thursday that it has appealed against the release of Abrahamian, Karapetian and another suspect and may also ask the Court of Appeals to overturn the two other lower court decisions as well.
Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian met with the protesting mothers and assured them that law-enforcement authorities are serious about sending the accused individuals back to prison.
According to one of the women, Haykuhi Khachatrian, Davtian also denied reports that he has repeatedly met with Abrahamian at a Yerevan restaurant and may help the veteran doctor avoid punishment.
Most of the women who protested outside the prosecutors’ headquarters in the Armenian capital had given birth at the Republican Hospital run by Abrahamian.
One of them, Naira Ayvazian, went into labor there three years ago. “My child did not die,” she said, accusing hospital officials of lying to her for the sake of their “business.”
Another woman, Anna Petrosian, gave birth to purportedly stillborn twin boys in 1999. She said that she never saw their bodies. “Since then I have been too stressed to become a mother,” Petrosian told journalists.
Khachatrian, who lost her child in similar circumstances last year, claimed that she and the other mothers did not speak up until now because they were “scared of the former authorities.” She said they were buoyed by the NSS investigation and are now ready to testify as witnesses in the high-profile case that has shocked many in Armenia.