Armenian opposition figure sentenced to 10 years in prison
Jirair Sefilian, an opposition figure, has been sentenced today to 10 years and 5 months in prison.
He was arrested two years ago for the illegal procurement, possession of and trafficking in firearms, and has spent two years in detention.
During a judicial inquiry the court found that Sefilian had plotted mass disturbances during commemorative events dedicated to the centenary of the Armenian Genocide. Sefilian was also convicted of armed resistance and violence toward a public official, as well as of destruction of property. He was also found guilty of the illegal procurement of firearms and ammunition in 2015, ahead of the constitutional referendum, with the aim to seize strategic facilities and force the government to take certain actions.
As was pointed out in the indictment, Jirair Sefilian ‘failed to accomplish his criminal plan due to some circumstances beyond his control’.
Jirair Sefilian, 51, was born in Beirut, Lebanon. He moved to Armenia with his family in 1990 with the aim of joining the Karabakh movement. At that time he was involved in the formation of Armenian armed units as a military instructor. He served as a commander of the Shushi special unit and was awarded the Order of the Combat Cross of the first degree.
Sefilian was refused Armenian citizenship on a number of occasions. In 2007 he was sentenced to 1.5 years for the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that his rights were violated during the trial.
During the announcement of the verdict, on hearing the judge sentencing him to 10 years in prison, Sefilyan started applauding the judge, shouting:
‘Bravo! Similar verdicts will soon be rendered against you.’
The opposition figure wasn’t given a chance to testify in the case. He couldn’t defend himself in court, neither could he make a final statement on the day the verdict was read.
Judge Tatevik Grigoryan didn’t allow him to speak from a seated position. Sefilian basically didn’t participate in the court proceedings which lasted for more than ten months as the judge would expel him from the courtroom, demanding that he should stand up when addressing the court. Sefilian refused to comply with this requirement, thus showing his attitude to the judicial system.
According to lawyers and human rights advocates, the entire trial was conducted with gross violations. Judge Tatevik Grigoryan would impose sanctions not only against the defendant and his lawyer, but also against Sefilian’s supporters who attended the trial.
Arayik Papikyan, Jirair Sefilian’s lawyer:
“It wasn’t a trial but rather an overt political order and revenge-seeking. 20 March should be marked as the day of the death of justice. Flags should fly at half-mast at court buildings and some black ribbons should be put up instead. This day will go down in history. Time will come when the political power will be made liable for that. “
Jirair Sefilian stated earlier that it wasn’t a trial but rather squaring of accounts with him. He termed it as ‘a political persecution and a theatrical performance’.
JAMnews reported at one time that on 17 July 2016 a group of armed individuals seized the building of the Patrol Police regiment, demanding the release of Jirair Sefilian.
Sefilian’s supporters insisted that he should be brought there, claiming they would obey only his orders. In addition to this, the group members also demanded the resignation of the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. A certain part of the population supported the group’s demand and thus protest rallies began.
Two weeks later the armed group members decided to surrender under the status of prisoners of war, so as to avoid clashes with the police and prevent the shedding of innocent blood of those ‘who have little to do with the regime’. Judicial proceedings into the case of seizing the Patrol Police regiment are underway.