Eleven members of Nagorno-Karabakh’s parliament have signed a petition urging the Armenian authorities to free a French national of Armenian descent who actively participated in last year’s anti-government protests in Yerevan and was arrested on controversial charges in November.
Sarkis Hatspanian was taken into custody after alleging, in an newspaper interview, a planned attempt on the life of President Serzh Sarkisian. He claimed that Sarkisian’s predecessor, Robert Kocharian, would benefit from the success of the alleged murder plot.
Hatspanian was convicted of “false denunciation” and sentenced to three and a half years in prison earlier this year. Both he and the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), of which he is a strong supporter, have rejected the charge as politically motivated.
A native of Turkey, Hatspanian moved to Armenia from France in 1990 and took part in the Armenian-Azerbaijani war for Nagorno-Karabakh. He publicly backed HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian’s bid to return to power, participating in massive anti-government demonstrations held in the wake of the February 2008 presidential election.
A general amnesty declared by the Armenian authorities envisages the immediate release from prison of those convicts who had taken part in the Karabakh war and were sentenced to up to five years’ imprison on charges unrelated to the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan. To that end, they need to present official statements certifying their status as war veterans.
Hatspanian’s wife, Hasmik Poghosian, said on Tuesday that she has so far failed to receive such a document from the Armenian Defense Ministry or the Karabakh military. “For unknown reasons they won’t give such a document,” she told journalists. “But they are not saying no either. That is, they are not saying that the amnesty does not extend to Sarkis Hatspanian.”
That Hatspanian fought Azerbaijani forces in Karabakh’s northern Martakert district, scene of fierce fighting in 1992-1993, was confirmed on Wednesday by Nerses Ohanjanian, who was one of the Karabakh Armenian military commanders in the area during the war.
The Karabakh authorities’ apparent reluctance to assist in the French-Armenian figure’s release was condemned by Gegham Baghdasarian, one of the 11 local parliamentarians who signed the petition addressed to the Justice Ministry in Yerevan. The letter urged the ministry to ensure that he is granted amnesty.
“It is very unfortunate that such people get in jail in and are left out of amnesty lists in Armenia,” Baghdasarian told RFE/RL. “Especially when they are unable to provide documentary evidence of their participation in the Artsakh war.”