By Hovannes Shoghikian
A high-ranking Armenian judge denied on Friday any political motives behind prison sentences given by local courts to dozens of opposition members arrested following last year’s presidential election.
More than 40 supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian have been tried and imprisoned over the past year on charges mainly stemming from the March 1, 2008 deadly clashes in Yerevan between opposition protesters and security forces. Many of these verdicts were based on incriminating testimony given by police officers.
Virtually none of these guilty verdicts has been overturned by Armenia’s Court of Appeals and the higher Cassation Court. Opposition leaders and their jailed comrades say this only proves that the Armenian courts execute government orders, especially in cases involving expression of political dissent.
David Avetisian, chairman of the Cassation Court’s Criminal Chamber, denied this. “In terms of the execution of penal practice, I see no differentiation between March 1 cases and any other cases,” Avetisian told a news conference.
“People may have only been sentenced for committing for illegal criminal actions ,” he said.