Armenian human rights activists have called on Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to help ensure the release of a well-known political activist who was jailed for organizing a violent anti-government demonstration in Yerevan in 2013.
In a joint letter to Pashinian, they described Shant Harutiunian as a political prisoner who received disproportionately harsh punishment in an unfair trial.
A veteran nationalist activist, Harutiunian was arrested while leading several dozen supporters who tried to march towards then President Serzh Sarkisian’s offices in what they called a “revolution of values.” Riot police used force to stop the crowd armed with sticks and homemade stun grenades from approaching the presidential palace after rallying in Yerevan’s Liberty Square.
Harutiunian and a dozen other arrested men went on trial in June 2014, with virtually all of them pleading not guilty to accusations of hooliganism brought against them. They were sentenced to between 1 and 7 years in prison. Harutiunian was given a 6-year jail term.
Pashinian pledged to help free all “political prisoners,” presumably including Harutiunian, when he swept to power in May in a wave of peaceful mass protests that brought down Sarkisian’s government.
According to Harutiunian’s lawyer, Inessa Petrosian, the jailed activist wants to be formally acquitted and rejects other legal options for his release, including a pardon.
“He expects the guilty verdict to be struck down,” Petrosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “At the same time he does not want that initiative to emanate from himself.”
The lawyer said Pashinian should specifically tell Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian to ask the Court of Appeals to acquit her client.
The court upheld the guilty verdicts in February 2015.