An Armenian human rights activist who spent more than four months in prison last year was acquitted on Friday of highly controversial charges that were leveled against him.
Arshaluys Hakobian of the Armenian Helsinki Association (AHA) was taken into custody on June 5 after a bitter argument with two police officers that visited his Yerevan apartment to hand him a summons from the Special Investigative Services (SIS). Hakobian complained to the law-enforcement agency after he and the chairman of the human rights group, Mikael Danielian, were allegedly intimidated by government loyalists during the May 31 municipal elections in Yerevan.
The Armenian police claimed that Hakobian punched one of the policemen and slapped the other after they “reprimanded” him for being drunk and wrongly signing the document. The activist strongly denied that, saying that he was forcibly taken to the police department of Yerevan’s central Kentron district and beaten up there for protesting the officers’ refusal to leave his apartment.
Although state prosecutors pressed the charges based on police testimony, Hakobian was unexpectedly set free in October shortly after the start of his trial. The trial prosecutors initially said they have sufficient incriminating evidence against Hakobian. But they subsequently asked a Yerevan court to give them time to “change or complement” the accusations that carry up to five years in prison.
The prosecutors stated on Friday that the case, condemned by the AHA and other civic groups, should be closed altogether for lack of evidence. The presiding judge, Gagik Avetisian, obliged, formally declaring the human rights campaigner innocent.
“The political order issued by the authorities hasn’t worked,” the AHA’s Danielian told RFE/RL, commenting on the development. He said the AHA will be fully satisfied only if the authorities prosecute the policemen who allegedly mistreated Hakobian.
The SIS refused last month to launch criminal proceedings against them, leading Hakobian’s lawyers to appeal to another court. The court is due to open hearings on the lawsuit early next month.