The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) condemned on Wednesday prosecutors for demanding an eight-year prison sentence for Nikol Pashinian, one of its leaders standing on trial on charges stemming from last year’s post-election unrest.
The harsh punishment was demanded during Tuesday’s court hearing in Pashinian’s trial.
“That is first of all an attempt at psychological influence,” sad Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator. “But I am confident that nobody can suppress our movement with such psychological ploys.”
Zurabian singled out Koryun Piloyan, one of the three trial prosecutors, for criticism, branding him a “butcher.” “He could have demanded a death sentence just as easily,” said the opposition leader. “It’s just that unfortunately for Piloyan, our Criminal Code does envisage such punishment.”
The demanded jail term would disqualify Pashinian from a general amnesty that was declared by the Armenian authorities in June. It would also effectively invalidate his possible victory in a January 10 by-election to the National Assembly. The outspoken oppositionist was registered as an election candidate earlier this month despite being under arrest and on trial.
Zurabian insisted that a guilty verdict would not bar Pashinian from contesting the vote even if it is handed down on by a Yerevan district court hearing the case before January 10. He argued that the defendant would appeal against it at higher courts. “Until the verdict gains a legal force, nobody can thwart Nikol Pashinian’s participation in the election,” he added.
Speaking at a news conference, Zurabian also gave a mixed assessment of the criticism of an Armenian parliamentary inquiry into the 2008 unrest that was voiced by two Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) officials this week. He said John Prescott and Georges Colombier, the PACE rapporteurs on Armenia, were too “diplomatic” in evaluating the results of the inquiry even if they managed to tell “quite a lot of truth.”
“There are diplomatic compliments there meant to create a semblance of objectivity,” said the opposition leader. “That is not quite acceptable to us.”