A lower court in Yerevan on Monday launched a retrial of the case of oppositionist Mushegh Saghatelian who was convicted after a 2008 post-election unrest and sentenced to five years in prison and now seeks acquittal.
Earlier, the Court of Cassation – the highest instance in Armenia’s three-tier judicial system – fully upheld the prosecutor-general’s appeal for reviewing the judicial acts of the lower court and the court of appeal issued in 2008-2009 due to “new circumstances.”
The Court of Cassation overturned the rulings, referring the case to the court of the first instance for a retrial.
The decision comes less than a year after Saghatelian won a case against the Republic of Armenia at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The Strasbourg-based court found that Saghatelian’s rights enshrined in several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated.
This ECHR decision came into force last December 20, and it is this decision that the prosecutor-general cited as the new circumstance in filing the cassation appeal.
The ECHR ruling, in particular, concerned violations of articles dealing with prohibition of torture, freedom and personal immunity, fair trial and freedom of assembly.
Saghatelian’s lawyer Seda Safarian on Monday singled out the right to a fair trial. “Let’s find out why the police officers who testified in cases of nearly a hundred political prisoners were interested in giving such testimony and how it turned out that the police officers who actually committed acts of violence against the people suddenly became victims in this case,” said Safarian.
In 2008, Saghatelian managed an election campaign of presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrosian in Armenia’s northwestern province of Shirak. He was arrested on March 1, 2018 following a crackdown on opposition rallies protesting against electoral fraud and challenging the outcome of the vote that officially gave victory to then Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
Ten people, including two security personnel, were killed as security forces quelled the protests.
In October 2008, Saghatelian was convicted of carrying a cold weapon and using ‘dangerous’ violence against a police officer and sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of 900,000 drams (about $1,900).
During the entire trial Saghatelian denied the charges. He was released on parole in November 2010.
During today’s hearing Judge Mesrop Makian requested medical documents on the health condition of Saghatelian who has been in hospital in an unconscious state for more than a year now. Until then he adjourned the session.
Saghatelian’s lawyer said that her client is unlikely to get well any time soon and in any case he will not have the ability to communicate with the court. “So, we have no other option than to pass on to the hearing right after the examination. Over 10 years have passed and it is desirable that the case be heard quickly. In this regard, I would not want Saghatelian’s health condition to hinder the trial,” said Safarian.
Saghatelian’s son, Sevada Saghatelian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that the family hopes for a fair trial after the ECHR’s ruling.