Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia (RA) spokesperson Tsovinar Khachatryan informed Hetq today that prisoners sentenced to life stopped the hunger strike they began yesterday.
"Upon the urging of RA Minister of Justice Hovhannes Manukyan, prisoners serving life sentences at the Nubarashen Correctional Facility stopped the hunger strike they announced on June 30. The RA Ministry of Justice pursues the problems of prisoners sentenced to life — they are at the examination and mapping stage. In a short period of time, the problems will be summed up and [our] future tasks will be presented to the public," said the spokesperson.
Recall, 29 lifers declared a hunger strike on June 30, demanding the opportunity to have their cases and penalties reviewed on the basis of the legislative amendments adopted on May 23, 2011.
Before the amendments of 2011, judges had to choose between sentences of 15 years or life, whereas now they have the option of delivering 15–20 year sentences, after which prisoners are eligible for parole. The lifers say that if they were to be punished for their crimes today they might've received not life sentences but sentences of a maximum of 20 years — a term that many have served already.
The lifers' relatives told Hetq that they will wait for the ministry's response.
"The problems of lifers is several years old — they haven't been solved for years. Now we're waiting for specific, practical steps. We've waited 20 years; we'll wait one more month. The ministry asked for a month. Beginning from the disgraceful trials to the exaggerated penalties, unjust verdicts, and testimonies [acquired] through torture… Our demand [is that they] review these questionable cases and give people the opportunity for freedom," said the sister of Karabakh War veteran Tigran Avetisyan, who was sentenced to death before Armenia removed the death penalty and has been in prison for 20 years.