Armenian Opposition Activist Acquitted Of Assault Charge

Armenian Opposition Activist Acquitted Of Assault Charge

An Armenian court on Wednesday acquitted a well-known opposition supporter of assaulting a police officer during last year’s anti-government protests in Yerevan.

The 37-year-old Igor Khachaturov actively participated in daily demonstrations which Armenia’s main opposition groups began last May to demand Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation over his readiness to make sweeping concessions to Azerbaijan. The protests, which lasted for nearly two months, were marred by several clashes between riot police and opposition supporters.

Khachaturov was arrested during one of those incidents and spent two months in pre-trial detention. He strongly denied assault charges brought against him before and during his trial.

The judge presiding over the trial, Tatevik Grigorian, found him not guilty in a ruling hailed by opposition leaders. One of them, Artsvik Minasian, said that prosecutors failed to present any evidence in support of the accusations based on incriminating testimony given by a single policeman.

The Office of the Prosecutor-General said it will decide whether or not to appeal against the verdict after receiving a copy of its full text from the court.

Khachaturov is one of more than 50 opposition protesters who were charged with resisting or assaulting riot police last year. Only he has been acquitted by court so far.

By contrast, no police officers were prosecuted for using excessive force against protesters even though about 60 oppositionists were formally recognized by investigators as “victims” of police violence. Videos posted on social media showed policemen punching protesters as the latter were dragged away and arrested by other officers.

Igor Khachaturov’s father Yuri was the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff from 2008-2016. He served as secretary general of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization when the current Armenian authorities indicted him as well as former President Robert Kocharian in 2018 over their alleged role in a 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan. Armenia’s Constitutional Court declared charges brought against them unconstitutional in 2021.

Yuri Khachaturov’s elder son Grigori is also an army general. He was arrested in March this year on charges of money laundering denied by him.

Grigori Khachaturov was among four dozen high-ranking military officers who accused Pashinyan’s government of incompetence and misrule and demanded its resignation in February 2021. The unprecedented demand was welcomed by the Armenian opposition but condemned as a coup attempt by Pashinyan.