“The probation service, which is supposed to have a reconciliation function, did the opposite in my case. They went to the victim’s family and told them “how you could forgive Ashot, how is it possible to forgive him?”  Well, do we have such cruel leaders, and do we run the state this way? After all, the state should be more humanitarian, shouldn’t it?”

Forrights recently met with 43-year-old Ashot Manukyan, a convict at Armavir penitentiary. It was only two months ago when the court decided to deny parole. Ashot had all the “components” that allow him to be released early, but … Unlike the victims, the state does not forgive Ashot.

 “To be honest, there was a lot of expectation from the court. But, unfortunately, that didn’t happen again. It was important for me to see the reasoning in the court ruling for refusal, but there were only sheer laws. I had no intention of telling the court to free me. No, I just wanted the court to give me a reasoned part of the verdict so that I could know what my next steps would be.”

Judges are still constrained; they cannot make the right decisions: “The old influence continues today.” Also, the public is not yet ready to see the life-prisoners next to them. Ashot says that the state has a lot to do here, but it is making the situation worse.

“Our society is not ready to accept that life-prisoners are humans too. They wonder how the victims are able to forgive. We are a Christian state of 2000 years, but do not yet perceive divine forgiveness. But this is not the problem of the society: this is the problem of the state and the relevant bodies, but the state is carrying out the opposite process. “

He tells how people reacted when the victims forgave him.

“Two people had visited the victim’s side of my case, terrorized those people with phone calls and brought them to the regional administration, inquired why they had forgiven me. It is possible that people, acknowledging their crime, apologize and be forgiven, right? Now, on what basis is the state intervening and, moreover, hinders their communication?”

“The convicts were beaten, but we did not say anything considering it as a part of the punishment”

“At the time of the death penalty, the dreams of those convicted of murder were solely related to food. When people woke up, they were not telling the other that, in their dream, they had gone to the green fields or were with their girlfriends. No, the one who woke up said: “Today I was at our house, I ate something, or my mother gave me a slice of bread with something.” In other words, we were so hungry that people were thinking about meal alone… these were terrible years.”

According to the report of the Penitentiary Service, Ashot Manukyan is considered a “corrected convict” today. He is one of the few among life-prisoners who has such a “calling”. It was not easy for the convict to cross that road, but Ashot always thought it was a part of the punishment.

 “The convicts were beaten, but we did not say anything considering it as a part of the punishment, not realizing that it brought a chain of offenses. If people talked about it once or twice, there would have been no additional punishments. These people reserved the right to punish others without having that right. “

Ashot says the state must have two functions: punitive and corrective. A person who has anti-social behavior and appears in jail must already be punished by the state for his or her anti-social behavior but, in the mean time, must be carefully re-educating that person.

“I’ve grown and I feel that growth every moment”

“My grandfather used to send me 1-2 books every month. One day a search took place, they took the books, threw them to the ground and, kicking, threw them out of my cell. I was very upset, it was a big blow for me, and I started yelling. One of the guys said, Ashot, you got mad for two books, but do you imagine the situation of parents of the soldiers who died …? I froze. For about 3-4 days I didn’t eat or talk. Now, as a psychologist, when I analyze my steps and reaction, I realize that this episode has changed my life at once and forever…”

Ashot Manukyan was accused of killing three of his fellow servicemen. He says the army has not left a bad mark on him. But, he adds, at that time, the army was just out of shape.

The system has greatly broken the boys in prison. It took away from them the “motivation” for hope, faith, learning and moving forward. However, he has systematically self-educated himself, enrolled in the university and is now a sophomore at the Department of Psychology with excellent academic progress.

 “I don’t want to evaluate myself; I’m still studying. I feel I’m learning more and more every semester. I already have a desire to continue my education in a second place. I’ve grown, yes, and I feel that growth every moment “

A few days later, Ashot will challenge the ruling of the first instance court on his conditional early release, though he has no hope of a just decision.

“There is just one Step from a peaceful and happy life to suffering”

A few days ago, Ashot Manukyan’s second book “The Will of the Armenian” was presented in Yerevan and then at Armavir penitentiary institutions. Earlier, Ashot had presented to the public the book “Crime, Tragedy, Suffering …”, where he addressed the Armenian soldier in detail describing his crime and urging to be careful and not destroy lives.

Roza Vardanyan

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