By Karine Kalantarian
The lawyers of two prominent veterans of the Karabakh war are going to appeal to Armenia’s highest judicial instance to overturn the prison sentences passed on their clients by a district court and later upheld by the court of appeals.
Ara Zakarian and Mushegh Shushanian, however, say they “clearly realize that chances that the Court of Cassation will take up their cases are slim considering the political implications involved.”
On September 25, Armenia’s Court of Appeals upheld prison sentences handed to Zhirayr Sefilian and Vartan Malkhasian, who were arrested late last year for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.
Both were charged with publicly calling for violent regime change shortly after setting up a pressure group opposing Armenian territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.
Only Malkhasian was convicted of the coup charge and sentenced to two years in prison. Sefilian was handed an 18-month jail term under another article of the penal code dealing with illegal arms possession.
By Armenia law, defense counsel have six month to take the appeal to the court of cassation, but Zakarian says “we will not wait that long.”
“We’ll present the case much sooner. Currently, we are working for our appeals to be as substantiated as possible so that the court will have no grounds to refuse to open proceedings.”
The defense counsel pledge consistent efforts for Sefilian and Malkhasian to be released on parole, which, they say, is the convicts’ right by law.
“We present it as a demand and not a request. Sefilian and Malkhasian will never show obedience to make a request to be pardoned or released,” Zakarian said.
By law, chief wardens of penitentiaries are to submit written applications for their inmates to the parole committee. The latest meeting of the committee that meets on a regular basis took place on October 5, but no such application was considered. The next meeting is in six months, about the time Sefilian will have served his prison term.
“It confirms our assumptions that there is a clear program to keep my client in jail until the [presidential] election is over,” Sefilian’s lawyer says.