Safaryan Case: Activist to appeal court ruling on extended custody at ECtHR

The lawyer of jailed radical opposition activist Gevorg Safaryan says they are going to appeal the latest controversial ruling by a court on extending his client’s detention by another month at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

New Armenia Public Salvation Front member Safaryan has been in custody since January 3 over a New Year night incident in Yerevan’s Liberty Square involving an altercation between protesters and police officers.

Lawyer Tigran Hayrapetyan told media on Thursday that the investigator conducting the case had also altered the contents of the charges.

“Then, they said there was a lawful demand of a police officer. But they saw that they could not prove it in any way and now they say that the police officers were on official duty and were provoked into a dispute during which Gevorg Safaryan allegedly hit a police officer,” said the lawyer.

New Armenia leader Jirair Sefilian believes the decision to extend Safaryan’s imprisonment is a message of the authorities to other young people to stay away from active politics.

“Gevorg is a symbol among young people… If they can catch and isolate the brave Gevorg, they think that others will be more careful, will show restraint and will not join the movement that was launched on December 1,” he said, commenting on Safaryan’s arrest.

Many oppositionists believe that the authorities are also unwilling to see Safaryan out of prison ahead of the March 1 joint rally of New Armenia and the opposition Armenian National Congress commemorating the victims of the 2008 post-election clashes.

A number of local and international human rights organizations, including the Human Rights Watch, have urged Armenia’s authorities to release Safaryan pending investigation into the incident.

In a report on Armenia released earlier this week, Amnesty International mentioned the April 2015 arrests of members of the Founding Parliament group, including Safaryan.

Under the charges brought against him Safaryan faces up to five years in prison.