The decision to grant amnesty was made on the occasion of Yerevan’s 2,800th anniversary and centenary of the First Armenian Republic" />

Armenia: hundreds of prisoners freed on amnesty

The decision to grant amnesty was made on the occasion of Yerevan’s 2,800th anniversary and centenary of the First Armenian Republic

Hundreds of prisoners have been released in Armenia a day after a bill on amnesty came into effect.

How many people were freed?

As of 13:00 on 7 November, 330 prisoners were released from penitentiary institutions. Among them were 13 foreign citizens.

The decision was made on the occasion of the 2,800th anniversary of Yerevan and the centenary of the declaration of independence of the First Republic.

• Letters from prison: The future is beautiful… when you have one

• Armenia: 25 years of struggle

To whom does the amnesty apply?

The amnesty was applicable to prisoners whose sentences did not exceed three years. Prisoners with disabilities whose terms did not exceed six years were also amnestied.

Prisoners over the age of 60 will be released, as will those under the age of 18 years who have committed a crime and do not have a previous conviction.

According to Acting Justice Minister Artak Zeinalian, about 6,500 people will be granted amnesty. Approximately 650 people will be released, while the rest will receive commuted terms.

Why was amnesty given?

The initiators of the bill stated that amnesty was given for humanitarian reasons. The government is also pursuing the goal of freeing up penitentiary institutions in the country.

During a discussion of the bill in the National Assembly, some deputies demanded that it not apply to members of the armed group Sasna Dzrer. In 2016, the group captured a police station in Yerevan and held it for two weeks. Policemen were killed during the event.

A compromise was reached – members of the group would be released only if the relatives of the deceased did not oppose the decision.

A special case

Among those who received a pardon was well-known political figure Shant Harutyunyan who many consider to be a political prisoner. He has already been released.

Harutyunyan is the head of the Tseghakron party. On 5 November 2013, he and his supporters were arrested in Yerevan for “anti-governmental accusations” and an attempt “to walk to the presidential palace to start a revolution”. He was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison.

The new government of the country, which came to power in the spring of this year after the Velvet Revolution, has repeatedly offered him freedom.

To do this, as reported by the government’s press service, Harutyunyan needed only to sign a “document confirming changes to his sentence” – a petition for clemency. He, however, refused. His son, Shahen Harutyunyan, explained why:

“Shant Harutyunyan did not want to sign any document in which he admits to guilt; he did not want to write a petition for a pardon because he is a political prisoner. He has been recognised as a political prisoner by international human rights organizations.”

More on JAMnews