As expected, Court of General Jurisdiction rejected on Friday opposition leader Nikol Pashinian‘s appeal to modify his jail term in a way as to let him out of prison before the February 2013 Presidential elections in Armenia.
Pashinian, 35, shouldn’t be in jail in the first place. The charismatic oppositionist, editor of “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, was the front-runner and young, inspiring leader, who teamed up with Armenia’s First President Levon Ter-Petrossian and engineered a miracle during the 2008 Presidential race. He rose the opposition (including Ter-Petrossian), rallied tens and hundreds of thousands of supporters and ruined plans for former President Robert Kocharian to easily transfer power to current President Serzh Sargsian. Instead, Sargsian gained his presidency in elections which were described as ‘flawed’ by international observers and ‘illegitimate’ by the opposition. Opposition protests followed, which concluded in March 1-2 violence in Yerevan.
On January 19 a Yerevan court of the first instance found Pashinian guilty of stirring up the “mass disturbances” that left ten people dead and more than 200 others injured. The verdict was upheld in the Court of Appeals, which, however, ruled that the prominent opposition leader will serve only about half of the controversial sentence in accordance with a general amnesty declared by the Armenian authorities last June.
The verdict was clearly politically motivated, the trial was sheer mockery and everybody understood – it’s the authorities trying to punish the rebel-editor.
The amnesty and the splitting of the jail term would have seemed like a positive gesture, however, the re-counting of the split-term was done in a way to make sure, that Pashinian won’t be there to rally opposition ahead of next Presidential race, where Serzh Sargsian seeks reelection. The math behind this is simply ridiculous, but nothing more should have been expected of these authorities. It is a survival issue for them, so Friday’s court ruling was no surprise.
“Clearly, Serzh Sarkisian and his regime are doing and will do everything to make sure that I get out of jail as late as possible,” Pashinian said after the verdict.
The question now is – can the opposition and the independent, free-thinking people in Armenia team up to fight for the release of the jailed editor, who keeps bashing authorities in his writings from prison? Maybe. I have started seeing the first signs of this, as the editors of about a dozen Armenian newspapers and online news agencies demanded on Thursday Pashinian’s release.
My blog is not really a media outlet, and I’m not exactly it’s editor, but from today, I’ll be proud to join those demanding his release BEFORE the next presidential elections and will be posting a banner linking to his blog with the call: “Free Nikol!”