Armenia’s main opposition alliance has condemned the latest appeals court verdict in regards to several of its activists, claiming that it is a case of retribution for its efforts to achieve consolidation among forces opposed to the current administration ahead of next year’s presidential ballot.
The Appeals Court in Yerevan chaired by Judge Armen Danielian on Tuesday upheld the unusually strict sentences passed on four young activists of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) by a lower court last July. The four were tried on charges of assaulting police and committing acts of hooliganism in an August 2011 incident in downtown Yerevan.
The longest jail term, six years, was given to Tigran Arakelian, a leader of the HAK’s youth wing who the Armenian police said played a key role in the incident. Artak Karapetian was sentenced to three years in prison, while two others, Sarkis Gevorgian and Davit Kiramijian, were jailed for two years.
The HAK claimed the young men were wrongly accused and were being persecuted for their political views. The opposition bloc suspended its unprecedented dialogue with establishment forces in the wake of the incident involving its youth activists.
Scores of members and supporters of the HAK gathered in front of the Court building in Yerevan’s Shengavit district today to protest the latest court ruling.
They claimed that the odd course of the appeals proceedings and their abrupt conclusion, with the activists not even allowed to deliver their closing statements, showed the “political order” behind the trial.
The HAK issued a statement on Monday to this effect, attributing such violations of the legal process to the political discussions that it started with a major opposition-leaning party, Prosperous Armenia, that very same day.
The verdict was read out in the absence of the defendants, who refused to attend the trial as a sign of protest. Remarkably, the prosecuting attorney was not present in the courtroom either. Opposition supporters, meanwhile, protested the decision by shouting: “Shame On You”, “Slaves”, “Criminals”.
HAK parliamentary faction leader Levon Zurabian condemned the court verdict, calling it a case of “petty revenge” in taking which, he said, the authorities were oblivious to possible political repercussions and damage to Armenia’s image abroad.
“It is not ruled out that the authorities have meant such a decision as a pure punitive action just because in this country some political forces are trying to start a process of consolidation against the regime,” he said.