Armenia: An activist sentenced to jail for participating in an opposition assembly

Press release

Paris-Yerevan, 1 February 2017. FIDH and its member organisation in Armenia Civil Society Institute denounce the sentence to two-year imprisonment of Gevorg Safaryan, member of “Nor Hayastan” ("New Armenia”) political movement. Safaryan spent more than a year in pretrial detention and after a trial in the Court f General Jurisdiction oof Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Armenia was sentenced on 16 January 2017 under Art. 316 (1) of the Criminal Code for violence against a police officer.

Gevorg Safaryan was arrested on 31 December 2015 during a peaceful assembly celebrating New Year’s Eve together with a number of other activists. The incident took place after the police brutally stopped the crowd from setting up a Christmas Tree. While other activists were released shortly after, a criminal case was opened against Gevorg Safaryan under Article 316 (1) of the Criminal Code. FIDH and CSI have already drawn attention to the misuse of the Article 316 of the Criminal Code by the Armenian law enforcement. The overwhelming majority of cases under the given article end with prolonged prison sentences for rather minor law infringements.

According to the CSI, the principles of fair trial have been violated during Safaryan’s pre-trial and trial proceedings. According to Mr. Safaryan’s attorney, at least seven defence witnesses were forbidden from being heard by judge Mnatsakan Martirosyan without any legal ground or explanation. Accusation witnesses gave contradictory testimonies. These contradictions were not duly noted or assessed by the court which used the latter testimonies as a ground for accusation. Defence allegations that investigators falsified parts of the case file were not investigated. For instance, a video shows that Gevorg Safaryan did not exert any violence towards the police officer on the 31 December 2015. Nonetheless, investigators entered into case materials a description of the same video as an evidence supporting their version that Gevorg Safaryan hit a policeman. The video was not viewed in court.

Gevorg Safaryan is reknowned for his political positions. He has previously participated in rallies and expressed his critical opinion towards the current government. The trial and the judgment against him seem to be in response to his political affiliation and opinion.

FIDH and the Civil Society Institute call on the judiciary bodies of Armenia to conduct an independent, effective and thorough trial in appeal in accordance with internationally recognised standards of fair trial and presumption of innocence.

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