An opposition member of parliament in Nagorno-Karabakh, who was assaulted and beaten up in June over what he claims were his political activities, believes that the four men arrested in connection with the incident will be released soon as part of the amnesty declared by the internationally unrecognized republic’s ethnic Armenian authorities on the occasion of the approaching 25th anniversary of its declaration of independence.
The 28 deputies of the 33-seat National Assembly of Karabakh attending the session on Thursday voted unanimously in favor of declaring amnesty timed to September 2, which is marked as Independence Day in the Armenia-backed region that de facto broke free from Azerbaijan’s control amid the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian forces defended their de facto sovereignty over the region in a three-year war that ensued. An estimated 30,000 people on both sides were killed in the hostilities.
The region’s authorities estimate that the amnesty bill – passed upon President Bako Sahakian’s initiative for the sixth time in Karabakh – will concern about a hundred convicted criminals currently serving prison terms of up to three years or given suspended sentences for crimes that are not particularly heavy or serious.
The persons who were arrested following the assault on Khanumian were first charged with kidnapping. The charge was later re-qualified and the arrested men are now accused of hooliganism, which is viewed as a less serious offense and accordingly implies a milder punishment in case of conviction.
In Khanumian’s opinion, his attackers will be among those released from prison under the amnesty bill. “I’m sure that the requalification of the charges was carried out upon the instruction of the president [Bako Sahakian]. I see no other version of events here than the president’s pressure and gross interference in the investigation process,” the Karabakh lawmaker told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am).
President Sahakian’s spokesperson David Babayan, however, rejected the claim. “It is wrong to politicize the amnesty. This is a legal, humanitarian act, not a political one,” he said. “It encourages convicts to realize their mistakes and stimulates their good behavior in prisons. This is a normal process that every country implements.”
Khanumian stressed, however, that he was not against the act of amnesty. He said he would also be glad to see some of the servicemen serving sentences in Karabakh prisons for minor offenses also get released. But, he said, many of them were tried in courts in Armenia’s southern Syunik province and technically are not subject to the Karabakh amnesty.