Prominent oppositionist sentenced to 7 years in prison

Nikol Pashinyan

A court in Armenia on Tuesday sentenced prominent oppositionist Nikol Pashinian to 7 years in prison for “organizing mass unrest” in the wake of the 2008 presidential elections.

Pashinian’s highly political trial was widely seen as an exemplary case, which is used by the authorities to scare away any opposition and dissent in the country. The opposition claims the court’s verdict was dictated by president Serzh Sargsian himself, while most ordinary people see it as regular revenge – a punishment against government’s enemies.

Nikol Pashinian, editor of the “Haykakan Zhamanak” newspaper, was the key figure in inspiring and organizing the peaceful mass rallies protesting the results of the February presidential poll. On March 1, 2008, the police and security forces attacked peaceful protesters, provoking violent clashes in the center of Yerevan. 10 people died, more than 200 were injured. Human rights organizations accused authorities and the police of excessive use of force in the 2008 clashes.

The authorities accused Pashinian for perpetrating the post-election violence. He fled the criminal investigation shortly after the riots, but returned and surrendered to police in July 2009 in a surprise move. Pashinian denied any wrongdoing in court and accused the government for instigating violent clashes between the security forces and the opposition supporters.

P.S. There is a lot of confusion around this case. Most publications on Pashinian’s conviciton I’ve seen today, emphasize the fact, that he is a journalist. I must state, that his being a journalist has very little to do with this case. Pashinian was persecuted, tried and convicted for his political activities, and this case has nothing to do with the situation of freedom of speech, as it is being presented by most media.

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