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Court Frees Armenian Government Critic


Armenia - Ara Saghatelian.

Armenia’s Court of Appeals on Friday set free a government critic who was arrested late last month for allegedly creating a social media account that spreads offensive comments about the country’s leadership.

The National Security Service (NSS) charged Ara Saghatelian, a former chief of the Armenian parliament staff, and three other men with calling for violence and criticizing government actions in breach of martial law declared during the autumn war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The NSS claimed that the “group” led by Saghatelian did that through a Facebook page opened in the name of a certain “Gagik Soghomonyan.” It cited in particular the “fake” user’s abusive statuses blaming Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian for Armenia’s defeat in the war, branding him a “traitor” and insulting his supporters.

All four men denied the accusations. Courts of first instance freed two of them, including former parliament deputy Karen Bekarian, while Saghatelian and the fourth suspect were remanded in custody pending investigation.

The Court of Appeals overturned a Yerevan judge’s decision to allow the two-month pre-trial arrest of Saghatelian, who had also run a government-funded public relations agency during former President Serzh Sarkisian’s rule.

“This whole process is a political process organized and guided by the country’s leadership,” Saghatelian told reporters after his release.

He again denied any connection with “Gagik Soghomonyan.”

The Facebook page has continued to be updated on a virtually daily basis after the arrests condemned by the former ruling Republican Party and other opposition groups.

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