Protest Erupts in Armenia over Activist’s Death in Jail


People gathered in support of Artur Sargsyan who supplied food to the members of ‘Sasna Tsrer’ group on Freedom Square

YEREVAN (AP) — Protesters demonstrated Friday, March 17, for a second consecutive day over the death in prison of an opposition activist.

More than 1,000 people gathered in downtown Yerevan to criticize the government and demand a proper investigation into the death of 49-year old Artur Sarkisyan, who was in prison on charges of aiding terrorists.

Sarkisyan went on a hunger strike last month to protest his incarceration. He died of heart failure on Thursday after being transferred from prison to a hospital, where he immediately underwent emergency surgery.

Investigators have opened a criminal case into his death.

Senior Armenian officials have expressed regret over his death. Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan said Friday he was experiencing “deep pain” about what happened.

The demonstration Friday was significantly larger than a smaller protest Thursday evening in Yerevan. The unrest comes ahead of a parliamentary election on April 2.

Sarkisyan had been accused of breaking a police cordon to deliver food to gunmen amid a two-week standoff in July.

Two people died and several were wounded in the standoff, when about 30 armed members of a radical opposition group took hostages and barricaded themselves inside a police station. The group was calling for the release from prison of their leader and the resignation of the Armenian government.