According to the Campaign for the Defense of Political and Civil Prisoners and informed sources, “The number of Iranians in Armenian prisons reaches 62 people, of whom 10 are women and the rest are men. Some of them have been awaiting trial and sentencing in Armenian prisons for months or years.”
Prisoners’ basic rights are not respected in these prisons, and some of these prisoners have been awaiting trial for months or years. Prison officials’ treatment of Iranian prisoners in these prisons are very bad.
According to the report, prisoners in several Armenian prisons have reported that their prison sentences do not match the committed crime.
Most of these inmates are deprived of familial visits due to the distance and travel costs, as well as rarely being able to make phone calls with relatives.
In one of the women prisons, in spite of all these cases, “the guards offer sex to Iranian female prisoners.”
According to an informed source, “There are three main prisons in Armenia where Iranian prisoners are being held. Another separate place is for drug addicts, which is a confined and prison-like treatment center.”
Earlier, an agreement was signed between the Iranian and Armenian authorities to facilitate the transfer of the offenders between the two countries, which has been ignored for unknown reasons for a long time.
Shown below is Dariush Adim’s report about some of prisons in Armenia and the situation of Iranians imprisoned there, based on the testimony of several eyewitnesses.
- Nubarashen Prison in Yerevan
- Abovyan Prison, a Women’s Prison in Abovyan
- Armavir Prison in Armavir area
- Treatment center for addicts
- Nubarashen Prison in Yerevan, where 18 imprisoned Iranians are in poor health with minimal food.
The prison is actually a detention center, named by the prisoners as the “Stalin Prison”, and is known for its strange tunnels and cells. In this prison, prisoners can be outside their cells for one hour in the prison yard, but Iranian prisoners are not allowed to meet each other due to the different yard time for different wards. The prison yard of this detention facility is a very small area with a cement roof.
The situation in this prison is so terrible that, for example, an Iranian-Armenian citizen named Albert hung himself two months ago and no one has followed his case. Calls are allowed once a week, but sometimes even that is not allowed for unknown reasons.
The quality of the food in the prison is so bad that, according to one prisoner, “even dogs do not eat this food. They bring our food in buckets from the stables and pour it into bowls and treat prisoners with disrespect.”
- Abovyan Prison, a women’s prison in Abovyan, where 10 Iranian women and prisoners of other nationalities are imprisoned. It is said, “In the Abovyan Prison, the women’s rooms do not have bathrooms, so they are transferred to another prison for bathing, where the male guards are standing in the bathroom and constantly harassing them and offering them sex, which has greatly impaired them.”
- Armavir Prison in Armavir area where 34 Iranian prisoners are held.
At Armavir Prison, there are 34 Iranian prisoners who are in terrible situations. According to an inmate at Armavir Prison, the prison has 6 wards, each with a 180 occupancy. This person does not know whether all of the other wards have been used to full occupancy, but about half of inmates in his ward are Armenian, and the rest are from other countries like Iran, China, America, Japan, India, Ukraine, Georgia and so on.
“The quality of food at Armavir Prison is terrible,” said the person, who did not want to be named. “About 3 months ago they said our rules were updated and our food will be Europeanized. They were supposed to give European food as trial for 70 days. For breakfast they gave a small amount of eggs and honey, and for lunch they gave chicken. During the trial period, we ate chicken after 5 months, although it was a very small amount. But after one week, the food menu was changed back to the old menu and they started giving us the same awful food. Later, we learned that the reason for the one-week menu change was due to an inspector visiting the prison.’
‘Water is rationed in this prison, which is only running from 8 AM to 10 AM, 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM, and 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Baths are only permitted on Thursdays for an hour and a half, which gives very little time. To summarize, the situation is awful.’
‘The drinking water in this prison is not drinkable at all. Not everyone has the money to buy water, and because of the rising dollar exchange rate, we are no longer able to buy water. The water here has been giving many prisoners kidney stones.”
This source, who is also incarcerated in the prison, went on to say, “The food we are given is poor quality. They have a special dish that tastes like a hay. Believe me, even sheep would not eat this food. There are people who go to bed hungry at night and can’t afford anything at their own expense.”
- I asked him about his friends and the sentences issued to them;
He talks about a friend who has been imprisoned for 13 months with a pending case for having a prescription of acetaminophen with codeine, or another person named “F” who is in this prison for 24 months with pending case just for a minor street fight. He is currently awaiting trial.
“They have arrested another person who did not have anything on him and is now awaiting trial for one year. Another person and his friend were each sentenced to 10 years in prison after one year of uncertainty because one of their travel companions had prescription pills on him.”
According to this Iranian citizen, “If someone did not commit a crime, but a third party confesses or testifies against him, he will be imprisoned for years and then put on trial. This is why some imprisoned Iranians are waiting with pending cases for a long time.”
- I asked this Iranian citizen imprisoned in an Armenian prison about their legal rights
“Our basic and legal rights in this prison are not respected. We have been told that we have 4 telephone calls per month, which should not exceed 10 minutes in total, but buying a phone card costs around 3500 Tomans and we can only talk for 6 minutes. (The card is only available at a personal cost). So, our contacts with family and relatives are greatly diminished and our families are undoubtedly concerned about our situation. In addition, due to the high cost and rising dollar exchange rates, they cannot visit us during our few monthly visiting hours.”
Prisoners have two visitations per month and it can be any day except during official holidays, but this is not possible for families due to the distance and high costs.
“We have been told that we can use Viber and WhatsApp each month, and we would sometimes be able to talk to our family on a computer in a ward authority’s room, but now it has been more than 3 months that they have cut us off for unknown reasons.”
- In Armenia, there is also a hospital for imprisoned drug addicts. There are currently 4 Iranians there. The source says he has witnessed some people who have been in prison for a year with pending cases. Later, they were transferred to this center to detox. The other 3 have each served about 7 months in prison. “When a person who has been here for a year, has already detoxed and stayed clean, then what is the need to transfer to this center?” he asked.
This Iranian citizen is deeply unhappy with the process of cases in Armenian courts, “The situation in the courts is awful.”
“Access to lawyers and consultants is rarely allowed,” he says. “The lawyers are selected for you. Nowadays, if someone wants to get a lawyer at their own expense but changed their mind from their friend’s suggestions (since many lawyers charge exorbitant costs for Iranians), they have not done anything positive for the cases or they disappeared.”
He also adds that they are being taken to another city for trial, saying, “For court, they take us to a town called Qapan near the Iranian border. Many times after going to court, for example, they say that the judge or prosecutor did not come, then the trial will not take place and they must return two or three months later, sometimes even longer.”
- I asked about the prison sentences and the court
“The courts are held very rarely,” he said, “Many people are left uncertain for months or years. Even when a sentence is issued, it is long and does not match with the type of crime. For example, there is one person there who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for under one gram of marijuana. Another person was a 70 years old truck driver who was arrested at the border crossing for having less than 1 gram of a drug and has now been sentenced to 9 years in prison. There is another person with less than an eighth of opium on him who was sentenced to 3 years and 3 months in prison. “
- What is your biggest problem?
“According to an earlier agreement signed between Iranian and Armenian authorities, convicts serving sentences in Iranian and Armenian prisons are sometimes transferred to their country of origin for continued serving sentences. Our main problem with the Armenian government is that they are really irritating us; it is as though they are doing it deliberately. They take you to the court, but court gets canceled. You have to wait months in jail for them to finally issue sentences. In addition, it has been two years since a prisoner has been exchanged with Iran, even though this is one of our rights that is not respected. I do not know why.”