Prosecutors on Monday asked a court in Yerevan to sentence 13 men, one of them aged 15, to between 4 and 8.5 years in prison for their violent clash with riot police during an anti-government demonstration last November.
The defendants were among several dozen protesters who tried to march towards President Serzh Sarkisian’s offices in what their leader, Shant Harutiunian, called a “revolution.” Police used force to stop the crowd armed with sticks and homemade stun grenades from approaching the presidential palace. Harutiunian and a dozen other men were arrested on the spot.
Harutiunian’s 15-year-old son Shahen was charged in the case but not arrested in April. He went on trial along with the arrested activists on June 12. All but one of them pleaded not guilty to accusations of grave disruption of public order and resistance to police.
Throughout the trial Harutiunian and his comrades claimed to be prosecuted for political reasons. They struck a defiant note after hearing harsh punishments demanded by the trial prosecutor, Gevorg Gevorgian.
Gevorgian demanded a 7-year prison sentence for Harutiunian, a prominent nationalist activist, 5 years’ imprisonment for his underage son. Harutiunian hugged and kissed Shahen as they learned about the sentences sought by the Armenian authorities.
“My father told me to stay in high spirits,” the teenage activist told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) afterwards.
The prosecutor urged the court to give the longest jail term, 8.5 years, to Vahe Mkrtchian, a close friend of Harutiunian. Another defendant, Albert Margarian, is facing 8 years in prison.
“We are lucky that they abolished capital punishment,” another accused man, Hayk Harutiunian, said with sarcasm upon hearing a 6-year sentence sought for him. “A slave must not be at the helm of power,” he added.
The defendants and their lawyers will make their final statements at the next court session scheduled for September 22.