Pashinyan Found Guilty: Oppositionist activist convicted on 03/08 charges, sentenced to 7 years in jail

A lower court in Yerevan on Tuesday found a controversial opposition leader and editor of the ultra-opposition Haykakan Zhamanak daily guilty on 2008 post-election unrest-related charges, pressed by the state prosecutors, and sentenced him to seven years in prison.

The court of the general jurisdiction of the communities of Kentron and Nork-Marash found Nikol Pashinyan, 34, guilty of “organizing mass disorders” in Yerevan on March 1-2, 2008, but cleared him of charges of using violence against a police representative “for lack of proof”. Pashinyan’s counsel said the verdict will be appealed.

The trial of Pashinyan began October 20. The opposition led by independent Armenia’s first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who ran for president in the February 19, 2008 election, held non-stop rallies in downtown Yerevan beginning February 20, protesting the outcome of the vote that gave victory to the government-backed candidate, current President Serzh Sargsyan. The street protests led to mass disturbances and clashes between demonstrators and security forces on March 1-2, 2008 in which ten people were killed and more than 200 injured or wounded.

Pashinyan had become a central figure during the days of protests and was a key organizer of the opposition showdown with authorities in the streets near City Hall. He, as other figures, including former MP and tycoon Khachatur Sukiasyan, went into hiding immediately after the protests were suppressed. Pashinyan turned himself in on July 1, 2009, following an amnesty declared by the National Assembly, under which he would have been released from prison if sentenced to a jail term shorter than five years.

Commenting at ArmeniaNow’s request on the verdict, senior member of the Ter-Petrosyan-led Armenian National Congress, ex-Minister of National Security David Shahnazaryan called it “a lynch trial against a representative of the opposition”.

About 100 supporters of Pashinyan had gathered in the yard of the court building, shouting antigovernment slogans and threats against the president of Armenia. After the court announced the verdict inside the court, the situation outside at one time turned disruptive, leading to scuffles between opposition supporters and law-enforcement.