By Hovannes Shoghikian
Armenia’s Court of Appeals on Friday upheld three-year prison sentences given to two proxies of opposition presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian accused of committing serious election fraud.
Simon Amirkhanian and Samvel Karapetian represented the former Armenian president in a polling station in the eastern town of Gavar during the February 19 presidential election. They were arrested afterwards for allegedly “prodding” the chairwoman of the precinct election commission, Hripsime Haytian, to inflate the number of ballots cast for not only Ter-Petrosian but Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian and other candidates.
Prosecutors never clearly explained why they think Amirkhanian and Karapetian, who deny the accusations, would help Ter-Petrosian’s election rivals. Nonetheless, a Gavar court sentenced each of them to three years in prison last month. Haytian, who is affiliated with the governing Prosperous Armenia Party, got off with a suspended jail term.
The high court in Yerevan left this verdict unchanged following an appeal lodged by the opposition proxies.
The Armenian authorities have for years faced pressure from the West to prosecute individuals guilty of serious irregularities that have tainted just about every election held in the country since independence. A number of such criminal cases were opened following the recent presidential election also marred by fraud reports. Most of the individuals arrested and prosecuted as a result are Ter-Petrosian supporters.
One of them, who ran the ex-president’s election campaign in the northwestern town of Maralik, has been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for allegedly beating a Sarkisian proxy and obstructing the work of a local election commission. It was the harshest election-related punishment ever set by an Armenian court.
The Court of Appeals also upheld on Friday lower court guilty verdicts against three other oppositionists who reportedly assaulted a pro-government heckler during Ter-Petrosian’s campaign rally in the central town of Talin in January. The men got between 18 and 30 months in prison.
Also convicted on Friday was a nephew of Sasun Mikaelian, one of three opposition parliamentarians accused of plotting to topple the government in the wake of the February 19 vote. A court in the town of Abovian sentenced Sos Gevorgian to one year in prison for illegal arms possession. Gevorgian went on a hunger strike Thursday in protest against what he considers a politically motivated case.