The Armenian parliament approved on Thursday a general amnesty that will lead to the release of hundreds of individuals serving prison sentences for various crimes.
A relevant bill proposed by President Serzh Sarkisian and dedicated to the 22nd anniversary of Armenia’s independence was unanimously approved by the National Assembly. Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian called it a “humanitarian” measure.
Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian, who presented the bill to lawmakers, said that up to 600 convicts and individuals charged with crimes committed before September 1 will be released from prison by the end of December. Hundreds of others will have their prison sentences shortened, he said.
Among those expected to be freed is Tigran Arakelian, an opposition activist who was arrested two years ago and subsequently sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on highly controversial assault charges. The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), of which Arakelian is a member, considers him a political prisoner.
Dozens of other, more prominent loyalists of HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian were freed after similar amnesties declared by the Armenian authorities in 2011 and 2009. They all were jailed as part of a 2008 post-election government crackdown on Ter-Petrosian’s opposition movement.