The opposition Heritage party sees a ‘political order’ behind the controversial verdict and prison sentence handed down for a former army officer who it believes has been persecuted for dissent.
Last week a Yerevan court convicted retired Colonel Volodya Avetisian of committing fraud and taking a bribe, sentencing him to six years in prison. Several months before his controversial arrest in September Avetisian began a lone protest in a central square of the Armenian capital, demanding better social conditions for thousands of war veterans.
Many veterans who live off meager state pensions backed the protest that kept expanding in the subsequent months.
Supporters of Avetisian have described the case against him as an instance of political persecution aimed at derailing their anti-government movement.
In a statement issued on Wednesday Heritage described the court decision in the Avetisian case as ‘another act of revenge based on a political order from above’. The party said that the ruling was an infringement upon the principle of freedom of expression, deploring what it described as ‘the survivals of the Chekist style of work’.
Heritage lawmaker Zaruhi Postanjian believes that by this judicial act Armenian authorities mean to ‘teach other dissidents a lesson’.
“So that those who have a civil position and can’t put up with today’s injustices would be afraid to raise their voice of protest,” she said. “All citizens, regardless of their social status, realize today that the current government is unjust and what we see is the consequences.”
Justice Minister Hovannes Manukian declined to comment on the case, saying that it is still in progress as Avetisian is likely to appeal the verdict and sentence at a higher court. Last week Avetisian’s lawyer said they were going to appeal the decision.