Three more men were sentenced to three years in prison on Thursday in connection with this summer’s clashes between riot police and supporters of opposition gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan.
Hundreds of radical opposition supporters fought pitched battles with security forces on Khorenatsi Street leading to the besieged police compound late on July 20. The angry crowd tried to break through a police cordon, hitting security forces and throwing stones at them. The police officers clad in riot gear pushed back and dispersed it, using shields, truncheons and stun grenades.
The police said that 46 officers were injured in the clashes that broke out three days after armed members of the Founding Parliament opposition movement seized the compound. The gunmen demanded President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation and the release of Founding Parliament’s jailed leader, Zhirayr Sefilian.
The police detained dozens of people during and after the July 20 clashes.
A district court in Yerevan found three of them guilty of participating in “mass disturbances” and assaulting policemen before sentencing them to three years’ imprisonment.
All three defendants pleaded guilty to the charges at the start of their trial, in hopes of receiving softer punishments. But one of them, Soso Markarian, said that while he admits throwing a stone at policemen he does not consider that a crime.
Markarian’s lawyer, Ara Zakarian, said that his client did so only after being injured by a stun grenade explosion. Zakarian also said that the police used disproportionate force on that night.
Zakarian and another defense lawyer, Ara Gharagyozian, criticized the ruling handed down by the court. They said it is aimed at discouraging Armenians from staging anti-government street protests.
Four other participants of the Khorenatsi Street protest were convicted in late December. Two of them were sentenced to three years in prison, while the others received suspended jail terms.