“Imprisonment judgment against Zhirayr Sefilyan and others: assessment by human rights activists”
On March 20, Tatevik Grigoryan, judge at the General Jurisdiction Court of Shengavit Administrative District, announced judgments on the case of Zhirayr Sefilyan, Gevorg Safaryan and others charged with grave crimes.

Zhirayr Sefilyan was sentenced to 10 years and 5 months in prison, Gevorg Safaryan to 4 years in prison, with a common sentence of 5.5 years, Sasunik Kirakosyan was sentenced to 4.6 years, Nerses Poghosyan – to 3.6 years, Hrayr Topchyan – to 3 years, Galust Grigoryan – to 3.5 years and Hovhannes Petrosyan – to 2 years in prison.

At the discussion on “Imprisonment judgment against Zhirayr Sefilyan and others: assessment by human rights activists” hosted by the Media Center on March 21, Arayik Papikyan, Zhirayr Sefilyan’s lawyer, assessed those judgments noting that the day of announcing such judgments should be marked on the calendar as a black day of justice. Then the lawyer provided his assessment of the said judicial act.

"In merely legal sense, the judgment isn’t worth any legal assessment as it doesn’t stem from any law or justice. The judicial system serves to solve political matters," the lawyer said adding, "Generally, any free-thinking Armenian citizen got an indirect message: “if you try to raise your voice against the authorities, give public speeches or reveal issues, the political authorities know how to solve political matters and will use for this purpose the court to make you silent by a very long imprisonment."

Arayik Papikyan believes that the judicial system crisis can be overcome only through political changes.

With reference to the term of the sentence imposed by the court on Zhirayr Sefilyan, his other lawyer Tigran Hayrapetyan noted that such a sentence was imposed only to stir suspicion among people.

"The bigger and the more frequent the lie is, the more likely the chances are that people will believe it. And the term of the sentence was imposed just by this principle. In these 2 days, I’ve been thinking that if we did not prove so actively that the charges were obviously absurd, the sentence might be not so strict. But as we succeeded in providing grounds that the charges were absolutely baseless, they became more outraged and imposed a stricter sentence."

According to the lawyer, by fulfilling a political order in such a coarse way, the judiciary signaled to the entire system.

"All the agencies have got the message that if the client is at the highest level, no one will ever face any problems for executing their order. In fact, jurisprudence was buried on that day."

When talking about the imposed sentence, Avetik Ishkhanyan, Chairman of Helsinki Committee of Armenia, noted that he no longer felt “at ease living in this country."

"These cases, as well as Samvel Babayan's case, remind us of the times in 1937 when charges were brought without any grounds and without any guilt. Acharyan was charged with spying for Turkey and England... That's why this trial is more shocking to me as compared with other trials."

With reference to public perceptions, the human rights activist notes that there will always be some people who believe that a person charged in any case has done something wrong.

“Some of the public still believe that those convicted in the 1930s committed something wrong. Such people can’t even imagine that a person may be caught and sentenced to 10 years in prison without any reason. And that’s the case with this sentence.”

Derenik Malkhasyan, Media Center Project Editor/Coordinator

To contact the author, please email him:derenikmalkhasian@gmail.com

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