Gaspari Case: Authorities say jailed activist presents no complaint despite torture allegations

While human rights activists alert the authorities that civil activist Vardges Gaspari is subjected to torture and mistreatment at the Nubarashen penitentiary and justice officials say there is no complaint from the detainee, the man’s lawyers plan to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

On Wednesday, leading human rights activists and Gaspari’s lawyer Tigran Yegoryan disseminated information that the 59-year-old maverick activist had been beaten up in prison where he was put last week as proceedings into his alleged insult of police officers and the judge continue. They said in the prison they also regularly poured cold water on the man and swore at him.

Yegoryan learned about it from his client when he was being taken to a psychiatric clinic in Yerevan’s Nork district at the request of relevant bodies to pass an expert examination there.

“All this is happening with the knowledge of the prison administration because they hear the shouts of Gaspari,” said Yegoryan.

“We are trying to mobilize the civil society and are preparing an appeal to the European Court’s chairman so that he take urgent measures and apply to Armenia’s government to stop the torture.”

The issue of Gaspari’s condition and his transfer to a psychiatric hospital on Wednesday was also raised in the National Assembly during a question-and-answer session with the government.

Addressing Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan, MP Edmon Marukyan, who is not affiliated with any parliamentary faction, said:

“This is the case when I believe the court’s decision was unfounded and unlawful, the one that does not bring honor to our country. Taking a person to a psychiatric clinic to check his mental condition in such cases reminds of the “best” traditions of the Soviet times.”

“I hope that the government members and the prime minister will take measures for Gaspari to be released,” he added.

Addressing the situation, Minister of Justice Arpine Hovhannisyan explained that Gaspari was taken to the Nubarashen penitentiary on February 19 and until February 22 he was kept in a quarantine cell there. And after that he was transferred to a cell for prisoners in a standard procedure, she said.

“He lay on the ground and there were some problems in his relations with other inmates. He was then transferred to a separate cell. It was the investigator’s decision to conduct a psychiatric examination and after that he [Gaspari] will be returned to the penitentiary,” said Hovhannisyan, adding that according to the information available to her, “Gaspari has made no complaint regarding his state of health.”

“Doctors approached him and asked if he had any problem. He said that he hadn’t, but others in the cell had. He has presented no complaint,” the minister said in the parliament.

Meanwhile, according to Gaspari’s lawyer, he has refused to take food and water for two days now. A quick response group of the Ombudsman’s Office was to visit Gaspari on Wednesday, while several supporters staged a protest in central Yerevan that day in defense of the activist.