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Opposition outrage following Armenian film producer’s death in court

18 July 2022

Armenian opposition groups have accused the government of killing Armen Grigoryan, after the controversial film producer died in court.

Dramatic footage of Grigoryan’s death in the courtroom was spread widely online on Friday. Doctors on the scene announced the cause of death as a stroke, while the preliminary results for his autopsy have yet to be released.

The producer had been in pre-trial detention since May after being charged with inciting violence and ‘publicly humiliating national dignity’.

Grigoryan was known for his controversial statements, often calling for violence against supporters of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, and, in one instance, claiming that people from the Shirak Province and the Ararat Valley were offsprings of Armenian women ‘raped by Turks’ during the Turkish-Armenian war of 1920.

‘The people of Shirak and the Ararat valley have always been traitors, and the highlanders [from] Tavush, Syunik, and Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh] have always been true Armenians because they did not mix blood with Turks; half of them are Turks, they are bastards of Turks, how can they be Armenians?’.

Armenian authorities have stated that Grigoryan’s lawyers did not inform them of his medical history or request any special treatment, despite claiming that he had ‘apparent health issues’. 

The Armenian opposition has raised concerns about Grigoryan’s pre-trial detention conditions, accusing the government of ‘killing’ the producer, whom they claimed was a ‘political prisoner’.

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Following news of his death on Friday evening, the Resistance Movement, an opposition coalition, held a rally in Yerevan holding signs that read ‘Nikol [is a] murderer’.

However, Ruben Melikyan, a senior opposition figure and the former Human Rights Defender of Nagorno-Karabakh, said during the rally that they had not seen any mistreatment of Grigoryan in detention.

‘There were minor problems that were resolved. The problem is for what and on whose order he was arrested’, Melikyan said. ‘Armen Grigoryan was in prison solely for his political views’.

Kristine Grigoryan, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender, said that it was ‘unacceptable and worrisome’ that the ‘conditions of pre-trial detention and the right to health care are not guaranteed to a person’.

She also stated that she had requested ‘clarifications’ from the Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of Justice regarding Grigoryan’s diagnoses, and the measures taken by the authorities to treat them along with ‘other possible circumstances that led to his death’. 

‘I will be consistent in bringing the culprits to justice’, Grigoryan wrote on Facebook.