The parents of Artour Mkrtchyan wanted more anything to present Armenian Justice Minister Hovhannes Manoukyan with a cake today with the number “19” on it.
That’s how many years their son, a former soldier in the Armenian Army, has spent in prison after being convicted for the murder of five other soldiers.
Artour’s parents say their son is innocent of the charges and that he was framed.
Unfortunately, Minister Manoukyan was away on a trip to the provinces so Artour’s mother Djavahir and her husband Hambardzoum left the symbolic cake at the ministry’s public affairs department in Yerevan.
Artour’s parents told Hetq that the cake was a message to justice ministry to wake up and finally resolve the matter.
“My boy celebrated his 38th birthday in prison. He went to the army when he was eighteen but we haven’t been able to welcome him home for the past 21 years,” Mrs. Mkrtchyan told Hetq, adding that they’ve pursued the case ever since Artour was sentenced to death in 1997. (The death sentence was later abolished and Artour’s sentence was changed to life imprisonment in 2003.)
“An entire family was sentenced to life, not only Artour,” noted Mr. Mkrtchyan.
Artour’s family has petitioned all three of Armenia’s presidents on numerous occasions to reopen the case; all to no effect.
Artour also went on hunger strike in an attempt to get his sentence reviewed. This too was in vain.
Mrs. Mkrtchyan went so far as to attempt self-immolation in front of the presidential palace when Robert Kocharyan was president.
Hetq investigated Artour’s case file located in the Central Courts’ Archive. We found that Artour finally confessed to the murders during the pre-trial examination after being tortured. Also tortured was Artour’s brother, who at the time was serving at another army post. He later retracted his confession during the trial.
Artour Mkrtchyan told the court that on the night of June 10, 1996 (the day of the incident), a jeep with defense ministry license plates drove to his outpost and that a weapons deal occurred.
Nineteen years later, former military prosecutor Gagik Djhangiryan has confirmed Artour’s testimony claiming that strangers visited the outpost on the day of the murders, but that they probably had come to purchase weapons from Artour Mkrtchyan.
“I can’t rule out the possibility that others perhaps killed two of the five. But I haven’t for a minute ever doubted that Artour is guilty of murdering the other three,” Djhangiryan told Hetq.
Despite the former military prosecutor’s recently expressed doubts as to who killed all five soldiers, Artour Mkrtchyan remains locked up at the Noubarashen Correctional Facility.
Relatives of the five soldiers killed that day nineteen years ago have never believed that Artour is guilty of killing their boys.
Top photo: Artour Mkrtchyan – 19 years ago and today
2nd photo – Hambardzoum and Djavahir Mkrtchyan