By Karine Kalantarian
The Armenian Review Court on Tuesday reduced from seven to six years the prison sentence handed against the controversial former head of the country’s prison system, Mushegh Saghatelian, by a lower court on May 31.
But the high court, acting on an appeal brought by Saghatelian’s lawyers, upheld his conviction on charges of abuse of power, fraud and an attempt to obtain "false testimony" implicating President Robert Kocharian in the 1999 parliament killings.
Saghatelian has repeatedly pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying that they were "fabricated" after he publicly accused Kocharian last year of orchestrating the killings. His supporters, mostly affiliated with the opposition Hanrapetutyun party, have also dismissed the case as politically motivated.
However, the Review Court ruled that the charges leveled against the former prison boss were proven by the prosecution during his two-month trial last spring. Most of the accusations stem from Saghatelian’s widely reported ill-treatment of prisoners and opponents of successive governments in which his late political patron, Vazgen Sarkisian, held senior posts.
Still, the court decided to shorten the jail term by one year, citing several “mitigating circumstances,” Saghatelian’s participation in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh being the most important one.
The convict’s lawyer, Robert Grigorian, said he is unhappy with the verdict and will take the case to the Court of Appeals, the highest body of criminal justice in Armenia.