Tuesday, 22 May

Prison Notes: "The elections are coming up. They need me on the outside."

Mher Yenoqyan   

Inspection of the cells started earlier than usual on April 2, the day of the parliamentary election in Armenia.

A tall, brawny man wielding a hammer entered our cell. He said hello to us, his facial expression somewhat haggard and sad. As per the routine, he started banging on the cell bars and walls to check for defects.

“How are you doing?” – he asked.

“As well as can be expected in prison” – I answered.

“If it’s not a secret, will you tell me who you’re voting for?” – my cellmate asked.

After a moment of silence, the guard assertively said:

“I made my decision 19 years ago and have remained loyal since.”

My cellmate and I started to guess.

“So, you’ll be voting for Kocharian” - we both blurted out at the same time.

Hearing the name Kocharian, the guard shook the hammer and left our cell, saying:

“19 years ago, I chose my wife and have been loyal since.”

We laughed.

Here’s a conversation I had with a guard escorting me to my work space in prison.

“We have no voting options,” the guard said, pointing to the epaulets on his uniform. “We found some work and are making a few cents. Should we risk it?”

A performance decided in advance, going by the name of “elections”, is over. As I write these lines, I remember an incident that took place a few months ago.

It was before New Year’s. They were taking me to some court sessions for my case. I met another convict there. We talked a lot. He was an interesting guy with his own take on things. When we were alone, not surrounded by other inmates or convicts, our conversations opened up.

I found out the guy was facing several serious charges and that, in the best-case scenario, he was looking at twelve years behind bars.

“You’re studying law. Let me tell you the evidence they have, and you tell me if there’s a way to get me released,” he said.

For a moment, I wanted to dig deep into the law and come up with something. I then realized that this guy had been in and out of jail several times and probably knew the law better than I.

“Everything is possible,” I said.

“You’re right. The elections are coming up. They need me on the outside. They’ll keep me locked up for two months, then release me.”

“On what grounds?”

“C’mon Mher. You’re not one of those naive inmates. You know what life’s all about. That’s their problem. They’ll come up with something.”

And that’s what happened. I recently found out that the guy had been released some time ago.

Mher Yenoqyan, serving time at Armenia's Nubarashen prison, also writes a column for Hetq called Prison Notes.

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