Appellate Court Hears “Dro” Grievances

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–"Despite assertions by governmental spokesperson Levon Zourabian and Prosecutor General Henrik Khachatrian that there are no political prisoners in Armenia–I still insist that Hrant Markarian is a political prisoner," attorney Rouben Sahakian said Tuesday at a Court of Appeals session of the Supreme Court’s Presidium.

The "Dro" appeals process began on June 19 as attorneys described in detail the verdict passed on Dec. 10 of last year. Defendants Arsen Artsruni–Armenak Mnjoyan and Armen Grigorian were sentenced to death for drug trafficking–the murder of Ashot Nersissian and his spouse Nuneh Maroukian and Gagik Sahakian.

The other defendants–Armenak Zakarian–Hovhanes Mkrtchian–Ara Harmandayan–Edik Simonian–Gevorg Alaverdian and Tatul Gabrielian were sentenced to varying prison terms for participation in the "Dro" group.

The charges of organizing a clandestine structure and complying to its activities brought against Hrant Markarian were later dropped. He was sentenced to five years in prison for possession and use of a counterfeit passport and illegal possession of arms.

Markarian’s attorney Rouben Sahakian said that his client had been accused of wrong-doings which were directly connected with the defense of Nagorno-Karabakh. Markarian had a license allowing him to possess arms issued by the commander of the Karabakh army. However–the court paid no attention to that.

Sahakian said that in most cases the court has sentenced a defendant charged on 232 counts of illegal possession of arms to less than one year imprisonment. "Then why in the case of Hrant Markarian did the court sentence him to the maximum term and ignored the mitigating circumstances. It suggests that somebody wanted to distance Markarian from defending Karabakh."

Noting that Markarian has already served two and a half years in prison–Sahakian–on behalf of Markarian’s wife and children–appealed to the court to reduce the prison term from five to three years. "Hrant Markarian must no longer be kept in custody," Sahakian said.

The next session of the Court of Appeals is scheduled for Saturday.

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