Lifers as a toy in the hands of the prosecutor’s office. Aram Petrosyan has announced a hunger strike

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Aram Petrosyan, sentenced to life imprisonment, has been on a hunger strike since September 13. He demands that the management of the institution comply with the requirements of the Penitentiary Code and move him to a semi-open regime. Aram Petrosyan has health problems. Today is the tenth day of his hunger strike.

According to the new penitentiary code, which came into force in July 2019, a lifer can be transferred to a semi-closed correctional facility after serving 15 years of imprisonment if he behaves well, and after 18 years he can move to a semi-open regime, in other words, to colonial life where the doors are not locked; then, the convict enters and exits the facility freely, works, can be with his family, has a cell phone, and spends only the nights in the special accommodation of the institution.

However, the Penitentiary Service is reluctant to comply with applications from lifers for regime change. Even if the Ministry of Justice gives a positive conclusion, the convicts are transferred to a semi-open regime, the supervising prosecutor appears, reverses the decision of the Ministry of Justice, again tightening the imprisonment regime of the lifers.

This is what happened with Aram Petrosyan. On June 11, his detention conditions were changed to a semi-open regime. However, on July 29, the prosecutor’s office suspended the decision to change the regime, and Aram Petrosyan was brought back to the cell of the Armavir penitentiary. No written decision, grounds or reasons was presented to the convict.

There are rumors among the convicts that there is an internal agreement to transfer them to a semi-open regime only after three years. These rumors have derailed people who have spent more than 22 years in prison, whose last hope was to breathe the air of freedom, at least from a distance. All these pushed Aram Petrosyan to an extreme step – a hunger strike.

In the same unfounded way, they suspended the decisions of changing the detention regimes of Tsolak Melkonyan, Armen Ter-Sahakyan, Artak Alekyan, convicts of Armavir penitentiary institution and returned them to their cells.

“The supervising prosecutor, a certain Isakhanyan, came to the second corps to intimidate the convicts of the semi-open regime, he was threatening them to stay smart or he would “close them,” said a relative of one of the convicts of Armavir penitentiary. Razmik Alekyan, the brother of life-sentenced Artak Alekyan, told Forrights.am that in June, when his brother was transferred to semi-open conditions, he started building a chapel for Armavir penitentiary.

“He made sketches, I personally brought stones; we wanted to build a small chapel. I had already taken tools, there was a workshop. He has been in prison for 22 years, but he has not been peeved. He wanted to work with enthusiasm, but did not remain in the half-opened regime even 20 days. We barely managed to move everything [the tools and personal things], when the decision was made to suspend his regime. People are under stress; you cannot give hope and brake them like that,” said Razmik Alekyan.

Artak Alekyan’s lawyer Ruben Sargsyan stated that there was no basis or reason. “I do not have that decision! I have to receive the decision on Monday. No one was given any documents. The supervising prosecutor went, saw them, talked to them, told them verbally that the regimes were changing again. But for those people it was a hope that their lives would improve,” said the lawyer.

He informed that Artak Alekyan is the cellmate of the hunger striker Aram Petrosyan. A prosecutor came to Aram Petrosyan today and only urged him to get out of the hunger strike, but the latter did not follow the prosecutor’s advice.

Aram Petrosyan applied to the Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan. What did the Ombudsman’s office do? Have they visited the lifer?

We received the following answer from the Ombudsman’s office. “On Saturday, September 18, lifer Aram Petrosyan called the hotline of the Human Rights Defender’s staff. He noted that he had declared a hunger strike due to the change in his imprisonment regime. The verbal complaint was submitted to the Defender’s Office on September 22, before that he was contacted by the doctors of the penitentiary, issues related to the health condition of the complainant were discussed. A visit to the penitentiary will be carried out. As a result of the private conversation, necessary steps will be taken within the competence of the RA Human Rights Defender.”

Syuzan Simonyan