YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenia’s law-enforcement authorities indicated on Friday that they might prosecute doctors in connection with the death of a man who was arrested last year after delivering food to opposition gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan.
The 49-year-old Artur Sargsyan died at a Yerevan hospital on Thursday hours after undergoing urgent bowel surgery there. He was set free on bail on March 6 following a 25-day hunger strike.
Some of Armenia’s leading opposition groups have blamed the authorities for the death of the man who came to be known as “Bread Provider.” They say he suffered from serious chronic illnesses and should not have been kept in detention in the first place.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee said it has opened a criminal case under an article of the Criminal Code dealing with negligent homicides resulting from inadequate medical aid. It gave no indications that law-enforcement officers or judges who sanctioned Sargsyan’s arrest will also be placed under investigation.
Arsen Grigoryan, the chief surgeon of the Armenia Medical Center where Sargsian passed away, insisted on Friday that hospital medics did everything to save his life. He stood by their conclusion that his death was caused by lung and heart failure aggravated by a serious intestinal condition.
Grigoryan said they detected bowel problems and strongly recommended an operation when Sargsian was transported from a prison hospital to the Armenia Medical Center on March 6. He said the radical opposition backer not only refused to be operated on but also left the private hospital against their advice four days later.
“Had he not refused surgery during the first hospitalization he would not have developed the [intestinal] rupture ten days later,” Grigoryan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Sargsyan drove his car through a police cordon to deliver food to armed members of the Founding Parliament radical opposition group during their two-week standoff with security forces, which left three police officers dead. He surrendered to them on July 31 along with the remaining gunmen holed up in a police compound.
Sargsyan was released from custody in late December but was again arrested on February 9. A law-enforcement body investigating the standoff said he ignored a summons sent by then. Sargsyan began a hunger strike immediately after his second arrest.