Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, on Wednesday refused to comment on a Yerevan court’s controversial decision to sentence an opposition activist to two years in prison.
The activist, Gevorg Safarian, was arrested one year ago while he and other members of a radical opposition group scuffled with riot police in Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
Safarian was found guilty of assaulting one of the police officers at the end of his trial on Monday. He denies the charge as politically motivated.
“The verdict has not yet come into force. I cannot evaluate it in any way,” Tatoyan told reporters when asked to comment on the ruling condemned by Armenian human rights activists and opposition leaders.
“The law forbids the human rights defender from intervening [in court cases] … I would break the law if I made an evaluation,” he said.
Safarian’s pre-trial detention was criticized by Human Rights Watch last year. The New York-based watchdog said he is prosecuted for his political views.
Safarian is affiliated with the Founding Parliament opposition movement. He went on trial in May two months before three dozen other men affiliated with the radical group seized a police station in Yerevan to demand President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation and the release of Founding Parliament’s jailed leader, Zhirayr Sefilian. The gunmen surrendered to Armenian security forces after a two-week standoff that left three police officers dead.
Tatoyan said that his office will release within a month a detailed report on the standoff, which triggered demonstrations in Yerevan in support of the gunmen. Two of those rallies were forcibly dispersed by riot police.