Karen Oganesyan, a life-sentenced prisoner who was serving his sentence for 23 years, was released on parole today.

Oganesyan had applied to the penitentiary twice for early release, but the penitentiary had made a negative conclusion, so the court did not appeal the decisions. Despite this fact, today the convict came to the court with a quiet and peaceful attitude. Having spent 13 years at the California prison, Karen has been serving his sentence in Nubarashen penitentiary since 2009, where he was presented with a positive characteristics.

“Karen Oganesyan demonstrated proper behavior during the years of serving his sentence, there never were problems with him, and in the years spent in the penitentiary, he worked as a translator for two years and participated in sports and cultural events. Therefore, I find that the petition for early release can be met,” Armen Petrosyan, chief specialist of the social-psychological and legal support department of Nubarashen penitentiary told the court.

Attorney Mihran Poghosyan presented to the court a positive description written by the penitentiary, an offer of an organization about employment of Oganesyan, and added that during his sentence his client married and now he has a 2.5 years old child under his care.

“If the court satisfies Karen Oganesyan, this can be a precedent and a good example for other convicts. It will show that, with good behavior, one day they can be paroled too,” said Poghosyan.

Karen Oganesyan spoke very excitedly, emphasizing that he had accepted his guilt from the beginning and sincerely regretted for what happened.

“The incident took place in 1996. In Beverly Hills, California, USA. On that day, after finishing my job, I met my friend and we went to see his girlfriend. When we all three were talking, some Mexicans approached us aggressively. At first I did not notice that they argued with my friend because I was talking to his girlfriend a little far away. Suddenly, I heard two shots, I turned and saw my friend fall, his face was covered with blood. For my friend’s and my own security, I quickly took out the pistol, which I was given by work, and shot twice in the direction of the Mexicans. Only later did I learn that they were dead,” explained Oganesyan and stopped for a few minutes to control his emotions.

At the time, Karen, 21, was convicted to life imprisonment under US Criminal Code on charges of murder. It is noteworthy that in those years, the maximum term of serving for that crime in Armenia was 15 years, and only the worst criminals were sentenced to death. It was in 2003, after the RA President’s decree, when the death penalty was replaced with life imprisonment. Karen Oganesyan was moved to Armenia in 2009.

The life-sentenced prisoner today specifically thanked Nubarashen penitentiary for the positive testimony and underlined that if he was given freedom, he promises to justify all the expectations.

Judge Mkrtchyan, hearing the parties, went for 30 minutes to a consultation room. During that time Oganesyan’s relatives approached him in the hall. In a conversation with Forrights.am, the prisoner expressed hope that the court would satisfy the petition and release him. “I have been waiting for this day for 23 years,” he said.

Having returned to the courtroom, the court made a decision to satisfy the petition and to release Karen Oganesyan from the courtroom for 10 years. The hall welcomed the court’s decision with stormy applauses. The prisoner who spent 23 years in jail confessed that he had doubts about his release until the last moment.

Oganesyan’s attorney Mihran Poghosyan in his conversation with Forrights.am stated that this is the first case in history of Armenia when a person sentenced to life imprisonment is freed early not due to  health condition:

“The culture of years has broken down today: the court and the prosecutor expressed an objective position on the basis of factual circumstances. This decision can be a good example and ground for other prisoners to review their behavior,” said the lawyer.

It should be added that the cases when the court satisfies the motion of the penitentiary or defense party to release a prisoner on parole are extremely rare in Armenia in general.

Roza Vardanyan

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