Leading Opposition Member Sentenced to Jail Term

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A former government official who actively supported the opposition during last February’s presidential election was on Wednesday found guilty and sentenced to two years in jail on charges stemming from his alleged role in the post-election protests and based solely on police testimony.

Smbat Ayvazian, who served as Armenia’s minister of state revenues in the late 1990s and is a senior member of the opposition Republic party, was arrested on February 25 and subsequently charged with resisting the police and illegally possessing a truncheon.

Resisting arrest by violent means is one of the usual charges brought against scores of opposition members arrested before and after the post-election unrest of March 1.

Ayvazian, who supported Levon Ter-Petrosian’s presidential election campaign, strongly denied the charges throughout his trial. He and his defense counsel have denounced the court proceeding as politicaly motivated.

In addition to a prison term, the court also set a fine of close to $1,000 to be paid by Ayvazian.

His defense lawyer Hovik Arsenian told RFE/RL that his client is going to appeal, at a higher court, the verdict that found him guilty solely on the basis of police evidence. In particular, the Strasbourg-based body’s monitoring committee called it “unacceptable” in a statement issued on October 2.

The committee also expressed serious concern about the continuing imprisonment of more than 70 opposition members and supporters. The Armenian authorities maintain that none of them is a political prisoner.

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