Garnik Arakelyan, a 60 year-old veteran of the Artsakh War, has been serving a prison sentence ever since being found guilty of premeditated murder in 2010.
Arakelyan has always claimed that he acted in self-defense when some men, brandishing knives, attacked him and his family in the yard of their home.
Yesterday Arakelyan told Hetq that last month he was transferred to what’s called the ‘open’ administration of the Vardashen Correctional Facility. This would permit him to leave for work on the outside every day, with the proviso that he returns to Vardashen at night.
But, Arakelyan says he hasn’t been able to find a job that would allow him to go and come.
“Employers refuse to offer me work. First there’s my age. I’m sixty. They also point to the fact that I was found guilty of murder,” said Arakelyan.
The inmate also has a US$5,000 civil suit decision hanging over his head that he cannot pay. Arakelyan’s only income is his disability pension. His family lives in a rented space in one of the dormitories located in Yerevan’s Ajapnyak district.
“I tell the regime that I’ll sign an affidavit that would allow me to leave at eight in the morning so that I can work as a cleaner or peddler in the market near my house. Just to earn some money, Arakelyan told Hetq.
His proposal has been turned down. Prison officials state that there must be a certified job offer.
What Arakelyan would like to see is a general amnesty on the occasion of the anniversary of the liberation of Shoushi, celebrated on May 9.
Even a general amnesty, he points out, will not free him from the $5,000 civil suit. Arakelyan thus appealed to employers and organizations to offer him a job.
This reporter paid a visit to the dorm where the Arakelyan family has been residing for the past 25 years. Mr. Arakelyan’s wife Naira also participated in the war, and their ten year-old son at the time served as a scout. The boy was wounded by a shell fragment.
An official document (above photo) chronicling Garnik Arakelyan’s war service affirms that he participated in battles to liberate Kelbajar and Martakert and was seriously wounded.
“Throughout his entire war period, he displayed courage, cunning, dedication, and patriotism. He undertook all his assignments on time and with the greatest degree of responsibility, thus enjoying the love and respect of his war comrades,” the document reads.
Arakelyan has his supporters on the outside. In 2012, over 100 people and eight organizations signed a petition calling for his pardon. It was rejected by the office of the president.
“I would like to petition the president again. But I don’t know if our letters reach him or not,” Arakelyan said.