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Ex-President’s Nephew Sentenced


Armenia -- Narek Sarkisian is escorted by police officers at Yerevan airport after being extradited from the Czech Republic, December 21, 2019.

A court in Yerevan on Wednesday convicted a nephew of former President Serzh Sarkisian of illegal arms possession and drug trafficking and sentenced him to five and a half years in prison.

Narek Sarkisian fled Armenia shortly before his family’s house in Yerevan was searched by the National Security Service (NSS) in July 2018. The NSS claimed that he asked one of his friends to hide his illegally owned guns, cocaine and other drugs in a safer place.

Sarkisian reportedly produced a fake Guatemalan passport when Czech police detained him in Prague in December 2018. He was extradited to Armenia and immediately arrested there a year later.

Sarkisian pleaded guilty to the accusations when he went on trial last month. He asked the presiding judge to conduct the trial under a so-called “accelerated procedure” that does not involve questioning of witnesses and examination of evidence presented by prosecutors.

One of his lawyers, Artur Pirvazian, said they will appeal against the verdict because prosecutors altered the charges brought against his client after his extradition to Armenia. Pirvazian claimed that the prosecutors had no right to do that without Czech authorities’ permission.

The lawyer also said that if the prison sentence is upheld by higher courts Sarkisian will remain in prison for only three and a half years because of having already been under arrest for a total of two years.

Armenia’s Court of Appeals released Sarkisian from custody on bail last November. The higher Court of Cassation overturned that ruling and allowed investigators to send him back to jail in April.

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