A lawyer for Gevorg Safarian urged a court in Yerevan on Tuesday to acquit the opposition activist prosecuted on charges of assaulting a police officer during an anti-government protest.
Safarian was among dozens of members of the opposition New Armenia Public Salvation Front who scuffled with riot police as they tried to celebrate the New Year in Yerevan’s Liberty Square early on January 1, 2016. Safarian was arrested on the spot and went on trial a few months later.
The trial prosecutor, Vahe Dolmazian, insisted on December 16 that law-enforcement authorities have proved that Safarian punched and knocked down one of the police officers during the incident. He said the activist should therefore be sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
In his concluding remarks at the high-profile trial, Safarian’s defense attorney, Tigran Hayrapetian, again dismissed as politically motivated the criminal case against his client, which is based on incriminating testimony given by several policemen.
“I believe that you can acknowledge this obvious injustice and communicate it to all those individuals who are behind Gevorg Safarian’s imprisonment so that justice is done and he is acquitted,” Hayrapetian told the court.
“Safarian is an opposition politician, and his political activities have been aimed at unseating the authorities or achieving their resignation,” he said.
“It’s hard to imagine a more politicized accusation,” added the lawyer. He also argued that Safarian was repeatedly beaten up before the January 2016 incident and that nobody was ever held accountable for that.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced Safarian’s pre-trial arrest as “wholly unjustified” just days after he was taken into custody. The New York-based watchdog said the oppositionist is prosecuted for his political views.