State prosecutors demanded on Tuesday that opposition leader Nikol Pashinian be sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in deadly street violence that followed the February 2008 presidential election.
The sentence would disqualify Pashinian from a general amnesty that was declared by the Armenian authorities in June. It would also effectively invalidate his possible victory in a January 10 by-election to the National Assembly. The editor of the “Haykakan Zhamanak” newspaper was registered as an election candidate earlier this month despite being under arrest and on trial.
The lengthy jail term was demanded after Mnatsakan Martirosian, the presiding judge, declared that the cross-examination of the defendant and witnesses is over and proceeded to the final phase of the trial at around 6 p.m. local time. Pashinian urged him to end the court hearings for the day, saying that needs to meet his election proxies and is allowed to do that under Armenian law.
However, the court session continued for more than an hour, in violation of the law. Harutiun Harutiunian, one of the trial prosecutors, then read out the final indictment prepared by them.
“The prosecuting side believes that with the compilation of researched evidence it has been fully proven that Nikol Pashinian organized mass riots with a group of other individuals and used force not dangerous for life and health against a police officer acting as a representative of the state authority [in October 2007,]” said Harutiunian.
That the prosecuting side impatiently waited for the end of the cross-examinations and prepared the indictment long before the evidence examination was over became obvious in the morning. Koryun Piloyan, another prosecutor, told RFE/RL that their final speech was essentially drawn up “several days ago.”
The defense lawyers, meanwhile, presented additional evidence and video materials relating to the March 2008 clashes between opposition protesters and security forces. Some of those materials were not included in the criminal case against Pashinian.
Yet it turned out that even without that the prosecuting side could go ahead with the indictment and that there was no need to analyze and work. Especially given the fact that during the presentation of evidence Piloyan continuously stated that the video materials have nothing to do with the case or challenged what was shown in them.
One of the footages presented in the court showed police and other cars burned during the clashes. According to Lusine Sahakian, one of Pashinian’s lawyers, it proves that security forces themselves parked the vehicles near the site of the clashes and set them on fire to portray the opposition protesters as rioters.