Hundreds of convicts in Armenia are expected to be released from prisons after a general amnesty act adopted by the country’s parliament last week began to be applied on Tuesday.
Overall, the law passed on the occasion of the 22nd anniversary of Armenia’s independence is expected to apply to some 1,300 out of 4,600 or so inmates of the country’s penitentiaries, of whom about 600 are to be freed immediately, while the prison terms of the rest will be shortened.
Convicts who committed crimes before September 1, 2013, are eligible, not including those serving sentences for serious offenses such as murder and rape.
According to the Justice Ministry, the data about amnestied convicts will be summed up in the coming days to become available for publication after October 14.
Meanwhile, law experts assume that a number of former senior officials convicted in high-profile trials are certain to be among the beneficiaries of the legislation. One of them, former chief of the road police Markar Ohanian, was released from the central Yerevan prison on Tuesday morning.
Colonel Ohanian, who was arrested in 2011, was later found guilty of committing a particularly large-scale embezzlement of public funds and sentenced to six years in jail. The former police official was greeted by numerous friends as he left the penitentiary building. He refused to answer media questions, saying that he was simply heading home and did not wish to talk.
Among those who are likely to benefit from the amnesty are also several young opposition members, including Armenian National Congress activist Tigran Arakelian, who is serving a six-year prison term for allegedly assaulting a police officer. Arakelian’s appeal is still being heard by a higher court and unless his current sentence is increased, he will likely be eligible for release, too.
The current amnesty is the ninth one since Armenia gained independence in 1991 and third in the last four years. The previous two acts passed in 2009 and 2011 resulted in the release of a large number of opposition members convicted on charges stemming from their alleged roles in the post-election clashes in March 2008.