An Armenian army officer was sentenced to three years in prison late on Thursday for beating and humiliating two soldiers in a videotaped incident publicized through the Internet.
Major Sasun Galstian was arrested in September following the circulation of an amateur Youtube video that shows a uniform-clad man abusing two army conscripts during what looks like a countryside picnic. The footage caused public outrage, prompting the Armenian military to order an inquiry.
The Defense Ministry initially questioned its veracity and said those who posted it on the Internet are keen to “discredit” the Armed Forces. But it subsequently announced that military investigators have tracked down the officer and soldiers shown in the clip.
The ministry said the video was shot in July on a mobile phone belonging to another serviceman, in the presence of his father and brother. All three men are were also questioned by investigators.
A court in the southeastern Armenian town of Kapan found Galstian guilty of abuse of power, a crime punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. The defendant, who was the deputy commander of an army unit deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh, pleaded guilty to the accusation during the pre-trial investigation.
The embarrassing video surfaced after the Armenian military was rocked by a series of non-combat shootings in late July and August that left seven soldiers dead. More such incidents have occurred since then despite top military officials’ pledges to tackle chronic abuse and corruption in the army ranks. Dozens of servicemen have been arrested, fired or demoted in recent months.