Zaruhi Mejlumyan

Activist Gaspari Released from Detention; Calls Nubarashen Prison a 'Slaughterhouse'

Civic activist Vardges Gaspari walked out of a Yerevan court after Armenia’s Criminal Appeals Court overturned a lower court’s ruling to detain him on a contempt of court ruling.

Gaspari was escorted home by his wife.

The activist’s detention, view by many as illegal and unsubstantiated, led to a public outcry for Gaspari’s immediate release.

On February 19, Yerevan’s Shengavit District Court issued a detention warrant for Gaspari, arguing that the activist refused to attend court proceedings in cases in which he is charged with contempt and slandering the judge and police officers.

Gaspari was being held in Nubarashen prison.

Before leaving the Shengavit courtroom, the judge attempted to continue Gaspari’s contempt case but failed to do so.

Addressing the judge, Gaspari said, “Given that you were unable to counter my just and legal substantiations, you decided to arrest me and transfer me to a place where the law doesn’t exist, the Nubarashen jail, where drugs abound and are used…here there is no court. You come to the fore as an accuser.”

The judge attempted to cut Gaspari off, demanding that he restrict his words to the issue at hand. Gaspari continued to reprimand the judge who then decided to halt the trail, postponing it until February 29.

Leaving the court, Gaspari told waiting reporters that he had declared the police murderers.

“On March 1, 2008, three people were killed by police arms. To date, the police hasn’t turned them in, hiding them under its wing. That label refers to all of them, from the top down. They killed people and haven’t been held accountable. But because I called them murderers I must be the one to be held accountable,” Gaspari told the press.

Live on camera, Gaspari told reporters how he was beaten in Nubarashen prison on the night of February 23.

“It was minutely planned. Officials from the department of corrections carried out their orders and the criminal class did the same. I still live that violence.”

Describing Nubarashen as a slaughterhouse, not a prison, Gaspari said that 70-80% of inmates live in fear and that violence is the rule.

“If people hear my voice, no one hears their voices. They are lost people,” Gaspari said.