Artur Mkrtchyan, a life-term prisoner, has been in prison for nearly 23 years. On August 1, an unprecedented decision was made at the Avan residence of the Yerevan Court of General Jurisdiction regarding his case. Judge Artush Gabrielyan has recognized the decision of the Placement Committee, which refused to change Mkrtchyan’s sentence regimen, as illegal.
The court obliged the Penitentiary Service Disciplinary Committee to restore Arthur Mkrtchyan’s violated rights and change Artur Mkrtchyan’s sentence from closed to semi-closed.
The semi-closed regime implies 2 “advantages”. Particularly, in a semi-closed correctional facility, the convict is kept in an isolated cell foreseen for up to six people, also, he can walk around 3 hours in the daytime within the penitentiary area intended for that purpose.
It should be noted that, in May of this year, the Placement Committee rejected Mkrtchyan’s transfer to the semi-closed regime based on the characterization given him by the Nubarashen penitentiary. Foundation for the refusal was based mainly on three factors:
The penitentiary mentioned that Arthur Mkrtchyan’s correctional work is still ongoing. The second issue was the fact that during his 23 years of imprisonment Artur Mkrtchyan had 9 penalties. Incidentally, all penalties have been extinguished. It should be noted that Mkrtchyan received the majority of 9 penalties not due to his behavior, but for keeping a phone:
“It turns out that I am punished for being in touch with my relatives,” Artur stated in court. The third factor is that Mkrtchyan has an unsettled $10,000 civil claim.
Even three months later the convict is not able to take advantage of the “privileges” of the semi-closed regimen. Today, three months after the court decision, Artur Mkrtchyan continues serving his sentence in Nubarashen penitentiary. According to Arthur’s relatives, the latter is not foreseen for semi-closed regimen. The convict had to be transported to Armavir Penitentiary weeks ago, which was intended for semi-closed regime.
“The vice-chair of the Placement Committee was in the courtroom on the day of the court decision. In his position, he pointed out that the semi-closed regimen would open up wider opportunities for me. However, after publication of the court decision, the Committee, without any reason, decided that I should continue serving my sentence in Nubarashen
penitentiary, ignoring the fact that the penitentiary did not provide the “peculiarities” of the semi-closed regimen. A question arises here: if the Commission would not allow me to move, why they did not appeal in the court? “- Javahir Mkrtchyan, Artur’s father, conveys his son’s position to Forrights.
About 3 days Forrights was trying to get clarifications on the issue from the Ministry of Justice and the Penitentiary Department. The ministry reported today that it was almost two months since the prisoner’s sentence was changed to semi-closed one, and the Department added that Nubarashen penitentiary is compatible with the conditions of semi-closed regimen.
Life-sentenced prisoner Mkrtchyan abruptly denies the statements of the Ministry and the Department. He emphasizes that the change of his sentence was recorded only on a piece of paper, since nothing in his prison life has changed whatsoever.
“They are lying, they are clearly lying. No change has taken place, my terms of months ago and now are unchanged since Nubarashen is not foreseen for semi-closed regimne. They changed my regimen as decorum, on a paper, and washed their hands,” added Mkrtchyan.
In addition, two years ago, the court also denied Artur’s conditional early release. New circumstances emerged after 19 years of Artur’s imprisonment did not serve as “sufficient grounds” for the court.
Let us remind that Arthur Mkrtchyan was accused of murdering five fellow soldiers in 1996, based on the contradictory testimony of one witness and Arthur’s confession, which he gave as a result of torture and violence. Not only Arthur but also his brother serving in a neighboring military unit were subjected to violence; moreover, a criminal case was filed against their father, Hambardzum Mkrtchyan.
Arthur has told in the courtroom that, on the day of the incident, he had come with a Niva car of the Defense Ministry to the Koti military unit. A weapon trade took place, and he had nothing to do with murder. But the court did not consider Arthur’s testimony credible, saying that he was trying to avoid responsibility. Only 19 years later, the former military prosecutor Gagik Jhangiryan confirmed Arthur’s testimony, insisting on and reporting operative data.
“Yes, there were strangers [in the military unit] on the night of the murder,” said Jhangiryan.
Arthur’s lawyer Robert Revazyan has disputed this case three years ago on the basis of newly emerged circumstances, but both the Prosecutor General’s Office and the courts did not consider it as sufficient basis for reopening the 19-year-old case.