Pashinian played a major role in an opposition movement led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, the main opposition candidate in a hotly disputed presidential election.
The then 32-year-old journalist was the main speaker at an opposition rally held in Yerevan on March 1-2, 2008 amid vicious clashes between some protesters and security forces. Eight protesters and two police officers were killed in what was the worst street violence in Armenia’s history.
Outgoing President Robert Kocharian declared a state of emergency and ordered Armenian army units into the capital, accusing the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition of attempting to seize power.
Pashinian went into hiding but surrendered to law-enforcement authorities in July 2009. He was subsequently tried and sentenced to seven years in prison for organizing the “mass disturbances,” a charge rejected by him as politically motivated.
Like other Ter-Petrosian allies, Pashinian was released from jail in May 2011 under a general amnesty declared by the former Armenian authorities.
A spokesman for Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General confirmed on Thursday that it has appealed to the Court of Cassation to overturn the guilty verdict in Pashinian’s trial and declare him innocent.
The official, Gor Abrahamian, insisted that the move “has nothing to do with the position occupied” by Pashinian at present. He said it is based on a ruling handed down by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) last month.
The Strasbourg court ruled that Armenian law-enforcement authorities had violated Pashinian’s freedom of speech and assembly.
The authorities radically changed the official version of the events of March 2008 shortly after Pashinian swept to power in May 2018. They prosecuted Kocharian and three other former officials on coup charges strongly denied by them.
Kocharian was first arrested in July 2018. He was then twice freed and twice rearrested before Armenia’s Court of Appeals released him on bail in June 2020.
A district court in Yerevan acquitted Kocharian and the other defendants in April 2021 after the Constitutional Court declared the coup charges unconstitutional.
The 67-year-old ex-president has said that his prosecution is part of a “political vendetta” waged by Pashinian. The prime minister has denied that.