More than 200 obstetrician-gynecologists voiced support on Tuesday for the director of Armenia’s main maternity hospital charged with arranging illegal adoptions of Armenian children by foreigners.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and other senior state officials, they described Razmik Abrahamian as an acclaimed and honest doctor and questioned the accusations brought against him.
Abrahamian, his deputy Arshak Jerjerian, the director of a Yerevan-based state orphanage, Liana Karapetian, and two other persons were arrested in mid-December as part of a criminal investigation launched by the National Security Service earlier in 2019. 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.
District courts in Yerevan ordered virtually all of the suspects released from custody a few days later. Abrahamian was freed unconditionally while the others were granted bail. Prosecutors decided to appeal against the court decisions.
In their open letter, Abrahamian’s colleagues and subordinates called for an objective and impartial investigation. They also demanded its quick completion, saying that the scandal is discrediting their profession and spreading distrust in maternity hospital personnel.
“The court must decide whether or not Razmik Abrahamian is guilty,” said Georgi Poghosian, one of the obstetrician-gynecologists. “This question must be solved, the sooner the better.”
“If some people can violate [Abrahamian’s] presumption of innocence why can’t we support our colleague?” said another signatory, Nune Shahverdian.
The letter also deplored “emotional” protests staged earlier this month by a group of women who had lost their newborn babies in disputed circumstances.
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.
One of those women, Haykuhi Khachatrian, denounced the doctors who signed the letter. “Before speaking out in support of Abrahamian, did they realize that they are defending a doctor who has admitted wrongdoing in a bribery case?”
Abrahamian, 76, was charged in April 2019 with giving a bribe to then Deputy Health Minister Arsen Davtian. Unlike Davtian, who was reportedly caught red-handed in his office, the veteran doctor was not arrested at the time.
According to government data, a total of 54 Armenian children were adopted by foreign nationals, most of them Italians and Americans, from 2016-2018.