Senior member of the opposition New Armenia movement Andrias Ghukasian charged with organizing mass disturbances during a July 29 protest will, for now, remain in custody pending trial, an appeals court in Yerevan ruled on Wednesday.
According to Ghukasian’s lawyer Lusine Sahakian, the opposition activist will remain in custody for at least another month when the investigation body is due to decide whether to seek extension of his two-month detention.
Ghukasian, who went on a hunger strike shortly after his arrest and claimed mistreatment in prison, denies the charges, claiming he is a victim of political persecution. His lawyer also thinks that the charges against her client are politically motivated.
“I can present one episode from today’s hearing when the court asked Andrias Ghukasian whether he would continue his opposition activities if he were released. And Ghukasian, of course, said that he would continue his opposition activities and that there would be no change in his opposition stance,” said Sahakian. “It is obvious that his answer had a great impact on the judge’s decision and the judge did not even understand that he was not supposed to make such an overt statement and, in fact, admission that Ghukasian is being subjected to political persecution.”
Two senior members of the opposition Heritage party, Armen Martirosian and David Sanasarian, who were arrested along with Ghukasian and face the same charge, were freed on bail by the appeals court earlier this month.
Another Heritage member Hovsep Khurshudian appeared before the higher court later on Wednesday with an appeal against his pretrial detention on charges of organizing mass disturbances. The court decided to release him on bail.
Still before the release of Martirosian and Sanasarian, the Heritage party announced it was pulling out of local elections because of the controversial criminal prosecution of its leading members on “fabricated” charges. The party that also condemned the prosecution of Ghukasian as politically motivated said it would not take part in the elections scheduled for September-October.