A Yerevan court of the first instance found him guilty of stirring up the “mass disturbances” that left ten people dead and more than 200 others injured. Pashinian and the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), of which is a prominent member, denounced the verdict as politically motivated. Pashinian’s lawyers appealed it late last month, saying that their client is innocent and must be acquitted.
State prosecutors, who had demanded a eight-year jail term for the outspoken oppositionist, filed a separate appeal. They want the Court of Appeals to overturn the lower court’s decision to clear him of a separate accusation of assaulting a police officer during an October 2007 opposition demonstration in the Armenian capital.
The court proceedings began with the defense lawyers demanding the replacement of a panel of three judges presiding over the trial. They said the judges have handed down “illegal” rulings in other cases stemming from the March 2008 unrest. Predictably, the court rejected the petition.
Pashinian, meanwhile, again struck a defiant note, repeatedly stinging the judges and prosecutors with sarcastic comments. He insisted that the controversial case brought against him is part of a “political persecution” of the Armenian opposition.
“The authorities have failed to achieve their objective,” said the 34-year-old editor of the pro-opposition “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily.
“A civic movement in Armenia is continuing and it will end in victory. It can’t have any other outcome regardless of whether or not they [the authorities] try, shoot or do anything else,” he added to rapturous applause from HAK supporters attending the proceedings.
One of them was ordered to leave the courtroom after demonstratively tearing up a picture of President Serzh Sarkisian.
An amnesty bill passed by the Armenian parliament last June mandated the immediate release of all opposition figures that were arrested following the 2008 clashes in Yerevan and subsequently sentenced to up to five years in prison. The bill also said that other oppositionists, who received harsher punishment, can be set free after serving only half of their jail sentences.
Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian acknowledged last week that Pashinian can have his sentence cut by half if he is not acquitted by the Court of Appeals or the higher Court of Cassation.