42 year-old Vanadzor native Vahagn Maroukyan has spent the last 23 years in an Armenian jail.
He was arrested in 1993, at the age of 19, and was found guilty of the premeditated murder of a Vanadzor Military Police chief.
Maroukyan claims he was tortured by the police into making a confession. He says that police even shot him in the back and that the bullet is still lodged in his body.
Maroukyan, who is registered as 2nd category disabled and who’s been in a hospital for convicts for almost 2.5 years, told Hetq that his jail cell is so damp that he now suffers from excruciating joint pain and that the bones of his fingers are bent out of shape.
For the past three years, the convict has been asking that the correctional department review his application for transfer to a more lenient facility.
“They keep postponing my application to be transferred to a semi-open facility. And there’s no talk of a conditional release,” Maroukyan told Hetq.
Last year Hetq published an open letter penned by Maroukyan in which he asks why his petition for early release keeps getting put off despite the fact that the law grants lifers conditional release after serving 20 years of their sentence.
He says the answer given is always the same: “We don't have an order from President Sargsyan.”
“Fine, there is no corresponding order. But the least they can do is change my imprisonment regime status,” Maroukyan says, adding that he has written to Armenia’s Human Rights Defender (HRD) on the matter.
Maroukyan says the HRD office got in touch with the Ministry of Justice and that they replied that the prisoner doesn’t work and doesn’t participate in prison activities.
“For a long time I’ve said they should take me to the local church so I can at least light a candle. They haven’t. And how can I work? I can hardly walk,” Maroukyan responds.
P.S. Hetq has applied to Armenia’s Judicial Department for permission to examine the criminal case file regarding Vahagn Maroukyan. Hetq has also applied to Armenia’s Department of Corrections for permission to interview Maroukyan in person.