Tigran Arakelian, a leader of the youth wing of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), has declared that he will not benefit from the general amnesty act after an appeals court in Yerevan again refused to consider his petition for a release on bail on Wednesday.
Arakelian, who has served more than a third of his six-year jail term, continues to protest his innocence and claim to be a political prisoner as his appeal is being heard by the higher court.
Along with three other HAK activists Arakelian was arrested in August 2011 for allegedly attacking police officers maintaining public order in Yerevan. The oppositionists strongly denied the accusation, claiming that they themselves had been beaten up by policemen after trying to stop them from arbitrarily searching another man. All of the activists except Arakelian were set free shortly afterwards.
A district court in Yerevan convicted all four opposition members in July 2012, with Arakelian receiving the longest prison sentence for what the Armenian police said was his key role in the incident. The three other activists remain free while their cases are being heard by the appeals court.
Last month more than a hundred prominent Armenians, including a dozen parliament deputies, urged the Court of Appeal to free Arakelian at least until the final verdict, promising to post bail and guarantee that the oppositionist would not go into hiding. A panel of three judges dealing with the case rejected this appeal without any explanation.
Arakelian’s lawyer Mushegh Shushanian presented a fresh petition for his client to be released at the court session on Monday, four days after the Armenian National Assembly adopted a general amnesty act that, according to law experts, applies to all four oppositionists. Judge Eva Darbinian, however, refused to consider the petition both on Monday and today, saying that the defense counsel may present the petition only at the stage of closing remarks.
Upon hearing this explanation, which the defense attorney found to be an illegal restriction of the defendant’s rights, Arakelian cried out angrily that he did not need an amnesty that was “not respected even by the court.”
“I officially reject it. I do not allow this amnesty act to be applied to me,” stated the oppositionist.
Arakelian’s supporters in the courtroom began to whistle and shout “Shame, Shame”, after which the court retired without explanations and Arakelian was taken out of the hall.
To the question of RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) whether Arakelian’s declaration will have legal consequences for him in terms of the application of the general amnesty act, lawyer Stepan Voskanian said that defendants can state their positions only when amnesty is formally applied to them by a verdict.
The court adjourned the trial till Friday when the parties are expected to make their closing remarks.