“I will never accept the charge; I will not accept what I did not do. I understand, they have lost a son, but I have lost my life of 23 years for what I have not done. “

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The trial of Artur Mkrtchyan, a life-sentenced convict, is continuing at the Shengavit Court of General Jurisdiction of Yerevan.

On August 1, 2018, the court, under the presidency of Judge Artush Gabrielyan, made an unprecedented ruling on the case of Arthur Mkrtchyan, recognizing the decision of the Penitentiary Service Placement Commission (to refuse to change the life sentence of the convict by removing him from closed regime to semi-closed one) as unlawful.

The court had ordered the above service to restore the rights of Arthur Mkrtchyan, but as Arthur stated in court, it was only on paper and there was no substantial change.

On November 15, prosecutor Zakaryan filed a petition to the court asking for the victims’ successors to declare their positions in court on Arthur’s conditional release.

Thus, for two hearings, the court heard the victim’s successors.

Today Artashes Mkhitaryan and Zhenya Harutyunyan, whose sons were killed 23 years ago, appeared in court.

The late serviceman Emil Matevosyan’s mother Zhenya Harutyunyan, before taking a stand, declared: “If he does not tell the truth, I’m against his freedom,” repeating that she was against it only because Arthur knew the truth but was covering it up.

“I went to jail, begged him to tell the truth who killed them. My son was asleep when he was killed,” Zhenya Harutyunyan said indignantly.

Asked by Forrights if she were sure that her son was killed by Arthur, Mrs. Zhenya’s answered with tears in her eyes: “Five people have died, shots have been fired from three different weapons. I am not sure [if Artur was the killer], but I think he has killed at least one of them. Let him say the truth,” she said.

The next victim’s representative also stood out with emotional background and outraged statements: “If my son is not there, let him not be too,” Artashes Mkhitaryan said, noting that he was against Arthur’s conditional release.

“Why should I be sentenced to life in my mourning, but he be released on parole,” he said, followed by offensive remarks about Arthur. As the atmosphere in the courtroom heated up, the presiding judge used a sanction against the victim’s successor.

Arthur Mkrtchyan responded to the opinions of the victim’s successor “If in doubt, you should be interested in reopening the case. I say open the case! How do I open it in the prison? Help me, let’s apply to open it,” Arthur said to the victim’s successors, stressing:

“I will never accept the charge; I will never admit what I did not do,” he said, adding, “I understand they have lost a son, but I have lost my life of 23 years. I understand, I suffer too from living in the prison every day.”

The prosecutor in the case expressed his position: “I find it premature to consider Arthur’s conditional release, so this appeal is subject to rejection,” he said, noting that Arthur had 9 penalties over 23 years, no work, no incentives, and no acceptance of his guilt.

Referring to the penalties cited by the prosecutor, the prisoner said that it was four years since his conditional release was being examined, and in those four years there was always a reference to the fact that he had 9 penalties:

“Nine penalties have not been increased in the past four years, and if 50 years pass, 50 years later they will still refer to the same 9 penalties,” Arthur said. As for work, he said he never avoided work, even if it was unpaid. “I was ready and have worked whenever there was work.”

Artur Mkrtchyan had received 9 penalties during the 23 years of imprisonment, the last one happened in 2013 for keeping a cellphone. All penalties have been paid. It should be noted that Mkrtchyan received most of the 9 penalties not because of his conduct, but because he has kept phones.

Attorney Khanum Mkrtchain referred to the prosecutor’s statement about work, asking: “Is there any evidence in the case that Arthur Mkrtchyan was offered a job and he has rejected it?” The prosecutor did not respond.

The lawyer also referred to the redress of penalties with a civil petition, noting that all penalties were paid, so this statement of the prosecutor is invalid.

Returning from the consultation room, the court issued a decision rejecting the appeal. It should also be noted that none of the life prisoners has been released on parole so far.

It should be reminded that Arthur Mkrtyan was accused of killing five of his colleagues in 1996, but he has not accepted the charge.

The victim’s successor Rafik Martoyan, the father of the serviceman Vardan Martoyan, appeared in court at the previous hearing. His son was killed that tragic day 23 years ago.

The court asked the victim’s representative whether Artur Mkrtchyan had paid his civil penalty, and whether he has no claim, to which Rafik Martoyan responded that he had paid: “What debt and claim should I have? I have none.”

“My baby is no more, and this man is an innocent man, he has been in prison for 23 years. I have no complaints,” he said. “Do you accept that Arthur is not the one who killed your son?” the judge clarified the question. “Arthur is not the killer,” Martoyan stated once again. After a brief question and answer session, Artur Mkrtchyan said: “I truly do not know who the killer is.”

After a short question-and-answer period, life-sentenced convict Arthur Mkrtchyan responded: “I really don’t know who the murderer is.”

“It is 23 years since my child is killed. What is there I can want from him [from Artur]? Let’s say, he remains in prison two more years: how do I benefit from it?” said the father of the murdered soldier to the court and then, turning to Artur, he said: “I wish, god willing, you get freed.”

Azniv Siradeghyan

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