ANC: Shant Harutyunyan and his jailed supporters are political prisoners

ANC: Shant Harutyunyan and his jailed supporters are political prisoners

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The opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) has recognized jailed protest leader Shant Harutyunyan and his dozen supporters who have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms as political prisoners.

The court in Yerevan on Friday found the 47-year-old leader of the Tseghakron party, his underage son Shahen and ten other activists who also participated in the November 5, 2013 anti-government protest guilty of acts of hooliganism or also of using violence against police officers. The judge presiding over the trial handed prison sentences ranging from 1 to 7 years to the activists.

In a statement released on Monday the ANC emphasized that the jail terms given to the defendants in the trial are “evidence of the ruling regime’s utter vindictiveness and disregard for the elementary norms of morality and law.”

The opposition party said that due to the circumstances of the cases and the trial as well as its outcome the defendants meet the criteria of political prisoners as set by a corresponding resolution of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.

The ANC added that from now on it recognizes the convicted activists as political prisoners, stating that “it will use all its possibilities both in Armenia and in the international arena to achieve their release as soon as possible.”

“It will also be one of the priority issues of the process of power change that has been started in Armenia,” the opposition party concluded.

Armenia’s leading human rights activists have also slammed the court for passing a “politically motivated” verdict and sentencing the defendants, including a minor, to lengthy prison terms.

The lawyers of Harutyunyan and other defendants said they intended to appeal the verdicts and sentences at the appeals court.

Armenia’s Justice Minister Hovhannes Manukyan, meanwhile, refused to comment on the outcome of the trial when approached by media over the weekend. He said he could not do so until the end of the appeal process as otherwise he would be seen as influencing the justice system.