An Armenian maverick activist who frequently lies down to protest government policy was fined 450,000 drams ($940) on Tuesday for insulting a judge and police officers -- a high-profile case that briefly landed him in prison last month.
Vardges Gaspari labelled them as “mean and undignified agents covering up government crimes” during an administrative court hearing in Yerevan two years ago. He was prosecuted as a result.
Gaspari refused to willingly attend his latest trial which began early this year. Police officers had to literally carry him from his home to a court house in the Armenian capital ahead of several court hearings on the case.
The Armenian police came under fire from opposition leaders, civil society representatives and some media when they detained him on February 19. Critics of the Armenian government reacted angrily after Gaspari claimed to have been assaulted by cellmates in the city’s Nubarashen prison. The uproar led to his release on February 26.
Both Gaspari and his lawyer boycotted the final session of the trial which ended in the announcement of the verdict by the presiding judge, Nelly Baghdasarian. They said they will appeal against the ruling, alleging serious procedural violations committed by Baghdsarian.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Gasparian stood by his controversial remarks that led to the hefty fine. “I’ve already told the judge that I will repeat everything that I declared,” said the Iranian-born activist.
Gaspari has for years lain down, usually during anti-government protests organized by opposition or civic groups, to protest against various government decisions. He has often defied police orders and been briefly detained as a result.
The eccentric activist said on Tuesday that he is now considering a new form of protest. “If I’m brave enough, I’ll run to [President] Serzh Sarkisian’s limousine and try to bang on it with my fists and show that I do not obey his arbitrary policies,” he said.