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Jailed Oppositionist Rejects ‘Political’ Charges


Armenia - Garo Yegnoukian, an arrested opposition activist, speaks in a court in Yerevan, 27Sep2016

Armenia - Garo Yegnoukian, an arrested opposition activist, speaks in a court in Yerevan, 27Sep2016

A member of a radical Armenian opposition group arrested in July insisted on his innocence on Tuesday, saying that he did not aid anti-government gunmen that seized a police station in Yerevan.

Garo Yegnoukian of the Founding Parliament movement described himself as a political prisoner as he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in a Yerevan courtroom. “They are scared of my being free,” he said of the Armenian authorities.

Yegnoukian was arrested during the authorities’ two-week standoff with other members of Founding Parliament occupying a police compound in the city’s Erebuni district. He stands accused of having assisted the gunmen by urging Armenians to rally near the besieged compound and spreading “false information” about security forces deploying armored vehicles around it.

Law-enforcement authorities cite Yegnoukian’s statements posted on Facebook and several phone conversations that were wiretapped by the National Security Service (NSS).

Yegnoukian dismissed the accusations as baseless and politically motivated. “There was no such assistance [to the gunmen,]” he said. “The accusations are completely fabricated. Three of the four [wiretapped] phone conversations were with my wife. My wife asked questions and I answered them. What kind of assistance could that be?”

Yegnoukian, who is a U.S. citizen, insisted that he only voiced “moral support for the ideas” advocated by the gunmen and opposes “in principle” armed struggle against the government.“But I also understand why they took that step,” he said. “You may not accept something but you can understand why it happens.”

The 31-member armed group demanded the release of Founding Parliament’s jailed leader, Zhirayr Sefilian, and President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation after seizing the Erebuni police facility on July 17. The authorities rejected those demands.

Yegnoukian spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service just before a court hearing on his appeal against the “inactivity” of state prosecutors overseeing the high-profile case and violations of the due process of law alleged by him. The court rejected the appeal after the hearing, triggering angry protests from Yegnoukian’s supporters and friends present in the courtroom.

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