Hrachya Gevorgyan, who died on April 5 in Armenia’s Armavir Penitentiary, was not averse to ruffling the feathers of prison officials by speaking out on violations he witnessed on the inside.
Nina Karapetyan, Gevorgyan’s lawyer and president of the Helsinki Association, links her client’s death with the fact that he was so outspoken and that many of his articles about the need for prison reform appeared in the press.
Gevorgyan was particularly tough on the Nubarashen Penitentiary, calling it the Nubarashen business center.
In his correspondence with the Helsinki Association, whose lawyers supported Gevorgyan for the past six years, Gevorgyan wrote about the drug business being conducted in Nubarashen prison by the guards and other employees.
Based on Gevorgyan’s testimony regarding the drugs, bribery and other abuses, including the beating of convicts, inside Nubarashen, Armenia’s Special Investigative Service launched two criminal cases.
Gevorgyan also claimed that guards bribed inmates from 30,000-50,000 AMD to be granted family visitation rights.
According to a statement released by Armenia’s Department of Corrections, Gevorgyan died suddenly on April 5. The justice ministry ordered an administrative examination of the death. Nina Karapetyan says it’s all for show and doesn’t believe anyone will be held accountable.
Karapetyan says that Gevorgyan, who had been suffering from chronic Hepatitis-C, arterial hypertension and bronchitis, never was adequately treated while in jail. Relatives had to bring him medicine.
Armenia’s justice ministry begs to differ, saying that Gevorgyan had been examined several times and was receiving methadone.
Arman Veziryan says the examinations were the result of pressure brought by the European Court of Human Rights.
To press home his demand for adequate medical treatment, Gevorgyan went on hunger strike several times. The most recent lasted 57 days.
Gevorgyan also suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, listed in Armenia’s penal code as an illness that can be the basis for early condition release.
Gevorgyan, forced to use a wheelchair since 2014, had claimed that he was poisoned at the Convicts’ Hospital while receiving an injection. He was transferred to a private hospital where he remained in a coma for ten days.
Gevorgyan’s mother, Nakhshoun Yengibaryan, tried to set herself on fire near the presidential palace in 2013 to protest her son’s treatment.
Karapetyan told Hetq that her client say his mother once in six years while in jail. “Prison officials said he was on a wheelchair and that they couldn’t take him for visitations.
Arayik Papikyan, another lawyer, says that inmates can buy a good cell in prison for $5,000.
All the lawyers I interviewed agree that prison officials see their jobs as business ventures, and that the more people behind bars the better the business.
Therefore, they believe pretrial detention is used almost exclusively, rather than bail, and why conditional early release is so rare.
The lawyers say that Hrachya Gevorgyan’s case isn’t unique for Armenia. There are many sick inmates languishing in Armenia’s jails and prisons.
Attorney Papikyan sums up the situation by saying, “Sadly, the view is that inmates are a potential source of revenue, not individuals. The more the number of inmates and the longer they stay inside, the greater the amount of illegal revenue.”
Photo of Hrachya Gevorgyan: epress.am