Friday, 06 December

Jailed Armenian Activist Released on Parole: “We haven’t seen freedom; we just read about it in books”

Hetq interviewed Avetis Avetisyan, recently released on parole after serving four years and four months in prison on charges stemming from the  “November 5 case", involving Shant Harutyunyan and others in 2013.

Avetis, one of the 38 individuals detained on November 5, 2013 at the start of a march in Yerevan entitled “The Revolution of Values”, was sentenced to five years.

Avetis’s son was just a couple of days old when he was arrested.  

Welcome, Avetis. What are your priorities now that you’ve been released?

Thank you. Now I must work, to support my family, but we also must liberate the country from Russian colonialism. I am a customs financier by education, but I have never worked as one, and I do not think I will work as long as we have this government. When we have a liberated country, I will go to one of the distant villages of Armenia to engage in agriculture and beekeeping.

If you have started fighting, you have to go till the end, without fear. You have to be ready for everything. The solution, in my opinion, is to have more people fighting for change. The change might take 100 days or 100 years to happen.

People need freedom. But we haven’t seen freedom - we just read about it in books.

Freedom is when a citizen succeeds in choosing the government and being demanding.

De jure - we are an independent state, de facto - this is not independence. We are just a colony, the slogan of which is “Armenia without Armenians”.

Colonizers do their best to make people leave Armenia and economically weaken our country. But no one will hand our independence to us – we should liberate our homeland and our people.

You could have been released on parole two years ago, in 2016, but you stayed in the penitentiary four years and four months.

Yes, I could have been back home on May 5, 2016. But at that time, the prison administration refused to present my parole case to the court. Then the law was changed, and I applied to the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kotayk Province. I must say that the prosecutor was against my parole, always objecting, but Judge Vardan Stepanyan decided to release me on parole under the strict control. I think the prosecutor will still appeal.

How did the prosecutor explain his objection?

There was no concrete basis. I did not have any penalty in four years and four months, but I didn’t get any encouragement, either. I recently organized a donation of around 400 books to the Sevan prison. I think they should have given me an encouragement, but they did not.

Is there anything good in prison?

Being deprived of liberty nullifies any positivity. I was in Nubarashen Prison for one year and seven months, starting on November 2013. The conditions were severe there.

There were 18-19 people in our cell. We slept in shifts. We only ate bread, and our relatives brought food in shifts. On May 29, 2015 they took me to the Sevan Prison. I am satisfied with the local administration, the attitude of the warden and staff. It was semi-open; I could walk as much as I liked.

There was a gym. I read books. There was a yard in front of our dormitory, and we grew things there. Long visits were every two months, and short ones - once a month. The work was very limited, though, only in the canteen, and it wasn’t for everyone.

Were there inmates in the prison who shouldn’t have been there?

Of course. There were many. There was a person sentenced for two years for stealing two chickens. He shouldn’t have been sentenced. He could have been sent to the border to serve instead.

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