YEREVAN—Artur Sargsyan, who became known as the “bread provider” to the gunmen who occupied a police compound in July died Thursday after he was released from detention, where he was on a hunger strike to protest his arrest
The news of Sargsyan’s passing was announced by his attorney, Davit Giurjyan, who did not elaborate further, however news.am reported Thursday that Sargsyan was rushed to the hospital Wednesday and underwent an operation, after which he did not regain consciousness.
After opposition members who were calling themselves “daredevils of Sasoun”—Sasna Dzrer—seized a police compound in Yerevan last July, Sargsyan broke through police barricades to deliver food those holed up in the building. He surrendered, along with the gunmen on July 31 and was charged with aiding and abetting. He was in pre-trial detention until December 31, when Armenia’s Special Investigative Services released him due to his deteriorating health.
On February 9, however, the SIS detained him again, claiming that he failed to appear for questioning on February 3—a charge that was refuted by Sargsyan’s attorneys who argued that he had asked law enforcement for an alternate date.
Sargsyan was immediately taken to a prison hospital where he started a hunger strike. Several political activists staged demonstrations in front of the SIS headquarters and in Liberty Square demanding the “Bread Provider’s” release, creating a social media uproar ahead of the official campaign kickoff for the April 2 parliamentary elections.
Last week, Sargsyan was released and taken to a hospital, from which he voluntarily checked out. He was rushed back to the “Armenia” Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 3:15 a.m. Thursday. The preliminary cause of death has been listed as heart and respiratory failure.
Reaction to Sargsyan’s death was swift, with Armenia’s Human Rights Defender’s office immediately calling for a criminal investigation into his death calling for “accountability and transparency” in the investigation.
Sargsyan’s supporters and activists gathered at Liberty square and began a memorial protest.
During a campaign rally in Arabkir on Thursday, Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan said he was “very sorry” for the “Food Provider’s” death. Asked whether there were breaches in the justice system, Karapetyan said that his aim was to correct such inconsistencies.