An Armenian court handed down on Tuesday a 9-year prison sentence to a man who fired gunshots last year to protest against the trial of 14 activists jailed for staging a violent anti-government demonstration.
Hayk Kyureghian, 32, fired from an air pistol towards police officers guarding a court building in Yerevan in June 2014 moments after approaching journalists to express indignation at what he called an unfair trial. He was overpowered and detained by the policemen.
The Armenian police said afterwards that the gunfire left several officers injured. However, only one of them was subsequently found to have suffered what forensic experts deemed minor injuries.
The presiding judge at Kyureghian’s high-profile trial ruled that the accusations of grave hooliganism and assault on police officers are substantiated and warrant a lengthy jail term. He read out the verdict after again ousting the defendant from the courtroom for contempt of court.
Kyureghian demonstratively refused to stand up when the judge made his way into the room. He has been unable to attend most court sessions in his trial due to the same gestures of defiance.
The judge also barred Kyureghian’s relatives, friends and supporters from the final session because of their vehement protests that nearly disrupted the previous court hearing held on Friday.
Kyureghian was able to deliver his final remarks and defend his actions during that hearing. “If the regime closes down all civilized paths, does not allow the citizen do defend his dignity by civilized means, the citizen has no choice but to solve matters with uncivilized and drastic methods,” he declared.
The 14 men, who attempted to stage an anti-government “revolution” in November 2013, stood trial on similar charges. Twelve of them were sentenced to between 1 and 7 years in October 2014.
The harsh punishment handed to Kyureghian was denounced as unfair and politically motivated by his family, friends and human rights activists. They demonstrated outside the court after its announcement.
“The authorities are so weak now that for them demonstration of force has become the main aim,” the defendant’s father, Armenak Kyureghian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They are going down a very dangerous path.”