By Anush Martirosian
An Armenian army soldier faced on Friday a two-year prison sentence for retracting his incriminating testimony against an opposition activist arrested during the post-election unrest in Yerevan.
The activist, Arman Shahinian, was recently sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for allegedly assaulting police officers during the March 1 break-up of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian’s non-stop demonstration in Yerevan’s Liberty Square. The court ruling was based on a pre-trial deposition signed by Karen Hayrapetian, a 18-year-old resident of a village in central Armenia who prosecutors say witnessed the incident.
Hayrapetian claimed during Shahinian’s summer trial that he was tricked into signing the testimony while being drafted to the army on June 10. He said he did not bother to read the 9-page document because officials at an army recruitment center in Yerevan told him that it relates to his military service.
The court ignored Hayrapetian’s statements, endorsing the assault charges brought against the oppositionist. Shortly afterwards, state prosecutors accused Hayrapetian of perjury, a charge punishable by up to two years in prison. The conscript went on trial earlier this month, insisting that could not have witnessed the post-election violence in Yerevan because he was in his village of Hartavan on March 1.
“My boy wasn’t there on March 1,” Hayrapetian’s father Paruyr said during a court hearing on Friday. “He had left the city on February 28.”
The soldier’s lawyer, Aghasi Atabekian, presented to a district court in Yerevan a written statement by Hartavan’s mayor and several dozen residents certifying that Hayrapetian was in the village on March 1. The court refused to question any of them, however. It decided instead to summon a police officer for questioning.