A high court in Yerevan on Friday reduced from seven to five years the prison sentence passed last year on Ashot Bleyan, in a verdict that upheld most of the corruption charges brought against the former minister of education.
Bleyan was arrested two years and accused of embezzlement of public funds during his tenure in the administration of former president Levon Ter-Petrossian. He has since vehemently denied the accusations, saying that they were part of a political vendetta waged against him by the current president, Robert Kocharian. The controversial criminal case has also been condemned as politically motivated by many Ter-Petrossian supporters and some human rights groups.
Bleyan's defense attorney, Robert Avagian, said the softer ruling handed down by the Review Court is still unfair because state prosecutors have failed to prove his client's guilt. He said a shorter jail term will bring "very little" relief to the ex-minister and that he will take the case to the Court of Appeals, the highest body of criminal justice in Armenia.
Apart from shortening the sentence, the Review Court also overturned a decision by a Yerevan court of first instance to confiscate half of Bleyan's property and fine him three million drams ($5,450). It also rejected the prosecutors' demand that Bleyan be barred from holding a senior government post after serving his sentence.