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Jail Sentence Against Civil Activist Seen As ‘Message’


Armenia - Activists protest outside the Public Services Regulatory Commission against a 10-percent increase in electricity prices, Yerevan, 1Jul2014.

Armenia - Activists protest outside the Public Services Regulatory Commission against a 10-percent increase in electricity prices, Yerevan, 1Jul2014.

Civil activists in Armenia view the latest conviction of a fellow protester campaigning against rising electricity prices as a “message” directed to all of them.

A court in Yerevan on Thursday found Narek Hakobian, one of the activists who held demonstrations in front of the building of the Public Services Regulatory Commission last summer, guilty of using violence against a police officer during a scuffle. It sentenced him to a six-month prison term.

The prosecution said the young man inflicted an injury on one of the policemen by kicking him. Hakobian denies the accusation, claiming that he was even physically unable to attack the police officer as he was a few meters away from him during the melee.

Hakobian says the verdict is based on the testimony of three police officers against him, while the court did not find the testimony of the demonstrators who also witnessed the events as “credible”.

The activist, who has not been taken into custody yet pending the consideration of his appeal at a higher court, believes that by its verdict and sentence the court tries to intimidate not only him, but also other activists who continue to hold protests against electricity price hikes today.

“When someone is put in jail under a penal code article for participating in a rally and doing something during this rally, it is clear that this person and his friends and fellow activists will feel some pressure,” he says.

Civil rights activist Argishti Kivirian, who himself has gone through a number of trials and litigations following his participation in protests, believes the court ruling against Hakobian is the authorities’ “revenge”.

“By convicting this young man they are sending a message to other active citizens, saying that if you keep struggling, the same may happen to you as well. And this is connected with the activity of citizens in the recent period,” Kivirian says.

Hundreds of activists held street protests in Yerevan earlier this summer condemning the decision of the authorities to raise electricity prices by 16 percent from August 1. The protests fizzled out only after the Armenian government announced a subsidy for the price hike and pledged to order an international audit of the Russian-owned company managing Armenia’s power grid.

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