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9.02.2018 | right to a fair trial

Prosecutor Seeks 11-Year Jail Term For Armenian Oppositionist

Prosecutor Seeks 11-Year Jail Term For Armenian Oppositionist
An Armenian prosecutor demanded on Friday an 11-year prison sentence for Zhirayr Sefilian, a radical opposition figure who was arrested in 2016 on charges of plotting an armed revolt against the government.

The prosecutor, Hakob Yenokian, also demanded prison terms ranging from 2 to 4.5 years for six other defendants who went on trial with Sefilian last May.

The mildest sentence is sought for Hovannes Petrosian, the sole defendant who has testified against Sefilian. Petrosian has said during the trial that the jailed leader of the Founding Parliament opposition movement had told him to prepare for the seizure for a television tower in Yerevan.

The prosecutors claim that Sefilian formed an armed group to attack this and several other “strategic” facilities, including a military base, with the aim of forcing the Armenian authorities to take “certain actions.” They also claim that he planned to organize “mass disturbances” in Yerevan during the April 2015 commemorations of the centenary of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.

Sefilian and most of the other defendants have strongly denied these accusations as politically motivated. They have frequently and bitterly argued with the district court judge presiding over the trial, Tatevik Grigorian, during court hearings in the high-profile case.

“This is not a court and you are not a judge,” Sefilian told Grigorian earlier in the day.

The Lebanese-born oppositionist smiled ironically as the prosecutor demanded the lengthy jail term for him. His lawyer, Tigran Hayrapetian, said the “cruel” punishment is part of the authorities’ efforts to muzzle their active critics.

Hayrapetian and other defense lawyers insisted that the prosecution failed to substantiate the accusations with compelling evidence.

Sefilian was arrested in June 2016 less than a month before three dozen members and supporters of Founding Parliament seized a police compound in Yerevan’s Erebuni district to demand his release and President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation. The gunmen laid down their weapons after a two-week standoff with security forces which left three police officers dead. They are now standing three separate trials.
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