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 Friday, April 19 2024 16:08
Marianna Mkrtchyan

Ruben Vardanyan launches hunger strike; he demands immediate,  unconditional release of all Armenian political prisoners illegally  held in Baku

Ruben Vardanyan launches hunger strike; he demands immediate,  unconditional release of all Armenian political prisoners illegally  held in Baku

ArmInfo. The family of illegally detained philanthropist, Ruben Vardanyan, announced today  that he entered into a hunger strike to demand the immediate and unconditional release of himself and the other Armenian prisoners illegally held in Baku.  

According to a message received by ArmInfo, "The hunger strike began  on April 5, 2024, following repeated requests by Vardanyan and  counsel to provide a fair and transparent trial in a timely manner in  line with international legal standards.  Tellingly,  since his  hunger strike began, his family's phone calls with him have been cut  off, in clear violation of all international norms.   The original  trial slated for January was extended without cause to May.  

Last September, armed forces of the government of Azerbaijan invaded  the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, triggering the exodus of the 120,000  inhabitants of the region. During the plight of the refugess,  Vardanyan and 7 other former officials were arrested and now face  spurious  politically motivated charges.  They are all political  prisoners.  

"I am deeply concerned about the health and well-being of my father,"  said David Vardanyan, one of Mr. Vardanyan's sons.  "For nearly 200  days, my family has not seen my father.  We have had absolutely no  contact with him since he launched his hunger strike on April 5th." 

Vardanyan's hunger strike tragically coincides with the 109th  anniversary of the Armenian genocide which will occur on April 24th  demonstrating how Armenians continue to be targets of ethnic  cleansing and are still targeted for persecution around the world.  

Ruben Vardanyan is a loving husband and a father of four. He is also  an influential Armenian business leader, social entrepreneur, and  philanthropist. Together with his partners from around the world, he  has driven more than $1.5 billion toward advancing economic  development, addressing humanitarian challenges, and supporting  global education initiatives.  

A former State Minister of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic from  November 2022- February 2023, Mr. Vardanyan has been charged with  false accusations, held in conditions against international law, and  faces a trial that will not be up to international standards,  especially regarding access of international observers to the  proceedings.  In addition, Mr. Vardanyan's case has been separated  from the other seven political prisoners, raising questions about  whether he in particular is being politically targeted.  

"The illegal detention of Ruben and the other former leaders of  Artsakh is an egregious abuse of human rights and the international  justice system and must be ended," said Paul Polman, Selection  Committee member  of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative co-founded by   Ruben Vardanyan. "The irony of this entire situation is that  Azerbaijan has been selected to host COP 29 in a blatant attempt to   "greenwash" their international reputation. COP has a major focus on  the interconnectivity of climate change and human rights at a time  when they are abusing both in plain sight" 

Mr. Vardanyan's family demands that: 

1. All  illegally detained ethnic Armenian prisoners, including Ruben  Vardanyan should be released immediately and unconditionally.  

2. Should the illegal trials proceed, they must happen before the  prisoners' detention orders expire in May, must meet global legal  standards, and international observers and media must be allowed to  attend.

3. The Azeri government must allow immediate access of the  International Red Cross to assess the wellbeing of Ruben and the  other prisoners. The family's access to telephone calls with Mr.  Vardanyan must be restored. 

4. Any peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan must include  the release of all ethnic Armenian  prisoners.

5. COP 29 should not proceed  in Azerbaijan without these steps  occurring."

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