“Gevorg Safaryan was Sentenced to Two Years in Prison: Assessment of Human Rights Defenders”
Media Center hosted a discussion today about the trial of activist Gevorg Safaryan, a member of the "Founding Parliament", activist, who was sentenced to 2 years in prison on January 16, based on the decision of the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan.

Gevorg Safaryan was charged with conducting violence against a police officer during the installation of a Christmas tree in the Freedom square on December 31, 2015.
Tigran Hayrapetyan, Lawyer of Gevorg Safaryan, said that the investigation took place with violations. During the investigation, approximately 13 policemen and 13-15 participants of the group assembling were interrogated.
“The investigator called to the court only the police witnesses. 14-15 witnesses, who were direct participants and against whom violence was conducted, were not called to court. It was already clear that the investigative body was inclined to take the case in the direction he wishes. The trial was conducted by a judge who has an experience of such cases, and it was obvious that the trial would be conducted in an improper manner for the defense. During the trial, the court incomprehensibly rejected the defense's questioning of 7 witnesses without any reason,” Hayrapetyan said.
The lawyer described the whole process of the trial as a "ridiculous and incomprehensible performance".

“In our opinion, it was a performance, the court made an order. The reproduction of the video was presented to the court with very serious violations but the court accepted it. I thought that the court would not make an obviously absurd court act, as everything is videotaped but the court did it. Anyway, we must first exhaust all the domestic remedies in order to go to the European Court,” Hayrapetyan said.

Vardan Harutyunyan, Head of "Right and Freedom Center" NGO, said that Gevorg Safaryan was a bright young man who was concerned about the future of our society and our country.

“The authorities usually do not make verdicts for such people they conduct a vendetta, punishing a man who does not agree with them. We live in a time that could be described in Kafka's "The Trial", or anyone else could describe it in an absurd genre. But the absurdity is our life, our reality and we have to live there, and the brightest young people have to be in jail,” Harutyunyan said.  

Arthur Sakunts, Head of Helsinki Citizen's Assembly office in Vanadzor, said that this is one of the unique cases where the whole cynical treatment towards the Armenian society is evident. 

“This is a verdict against freedom of speech, freedom of opinion. Safaryan is the noblest of the young men whose 4-5 years’ biography shows that he should have absolutely nothing to do with the legal system but he was always prosecuted for his opinion. We can remember the violence against him at the end of the year of 2013, and then during "The 100th anniversary without regime" movement, he was detained. This verdict is not only for Gevorg Safaryan but for Gevorg Safaryan’s collective character. I consider this to be a targeted punishing action against Gevorg Safaryan and against people who have this behavior, a way of thinking and approach,” Sakunts said. 

He expressed disappointment that opposition political forces do not criticize this situation.  

"At least those who criticise the government and consider themselves as an alternative, do not react the most cynical action at this point, do not criticise this phenomenon. The impunity of the government is due to the tolerance of impunity, "Sakunts said.

Artak Zeynalyan, Head of the Rule of Law NGO, said that there is a misdemeanor in the actions of the police, and according to him, Gevorg Safaryan could not have been prosecuted, but on the contrary, the law enforcement agencies should have protected his right to freedom of expression.

“Gevorg Safaryan is a victim of discrimination. He was prosecuted, was expelled for his views. In this case, there is no remedy. Right now a complaint should be filed at the European Court of Human Rights, saying there is no remedy, it is impossible to restore the rights of Gevorg Safaryan at the national courts,” Zeylanyan said. 

Avetik Ishkhanyan, Head of the Helsinki Committee of Armenia, said that there were a lot of political prisoners in Armenia, who became better lawyers than the prosecutor when released.

“Yesterday it was another proof, cheers to Gevorg. Once again it was proven by this trial that formal bodies act in the judicial legal system. In fact, this is one body, decisions are made in a place and the Special Investigation Committee, the Special Investigation Service, the Prosecutor's Office, the courts are supposedly independent bodies and, in reality, these are artificial divisions,” Ishkhanyan said.

He considered Gevorg Safaryan a classic prisoner of conscience. "The man who did nothing and suddenly finds himself in jail and the court decides to sentence him to two years."

“I want to add to what Vardan Harutyunyan said that if the queen of proofs used to be a confession, now the queen of proofs is the testimony of the police, I would say that now the queen is the will of the government. This is another shame for our country,” Ishkhanyan said. 

Lilit Arakelyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”

To contact the author please send an email to lilitarakelyan@pjc.am.

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