Proposal To Repeal Article 301


Lragir, Armenia
Aug 16 2007

The supporters of Jirair Sefilyan and Vardan Malkhasyan held a
public debate on August 16 and proposed a legislative change. A few
days ago Sefilyan and Malkhasyan were sentenced to 1.5 and 2 years
respectively. Jirair Sefilyan was convicted for keeping illegal
ammunition, and Malkhasyan was convicted for calls for a violent
coup. However, Sefilyan had also been arrested on a charge of calls
for a coup. Vahan Aroyan was also sentenced to 18 months for keeping
illegal weapon.

During the debate at the Congress Hotel on August 16 in which
Sefilyan’s combatants and proponents participated, including the
members of the Initiative for the Defense of the Liberated Territories
and the members of the Kura-Arax Foundation, as well as political and
human rights activists, opinions on the case of Sefilyan and Malkhasyan
and the trial were voiced. The participants believed that all this is
due to fear from the government. The participants are hopeful that
at least the Court of Appeal will pass a fair ruling and will not
convict the former azatamartiks on a charge which was not proved,
thereby saving the reputation of the judicial system.

Armen Aghayan also stated that if in December 2006 and January and
February 2007 some political forced which used to cooperate closely
with Sefilyan had expressed a clear stance on this case, the case
might have been dismissed before it would get to the court. "I mean
the references from the armed forces according to which the weapon
found with Sefilyan was illegal. It is a barefaced lie which would be
easily revealed at the court of law but the lie remained in official
documents for months, decisions on arrest were made on their basis,
etc.," Armen Aghayan says.

The organizers of the debate released a statement which describes the
investigation, the trial and the decision of the court. In addition,
legal, political and moral evaluations were given that the heroes of
the liberation war in Karabakh Sefilyan, Malkhasyan and Aroyan were,
in fact, victims of prosecution. Therefore, in order to prevent the
government from applying the notorious Article 301 of the Crime Code
the organizers of the debate propose defining it as unconstitutional.

This is the article under which Sefilyan and Malkhasyan were charged
and arrested, i.e. calls for a violent coup. Armen Aghayan says
the article, in fact, shortens the freedom of speech and enables
the government to accuse any oppositionist if there is political
expediency. Therefore, they propose defining the article as
unconstitutional and report this issue to the Constitutional Court.

The authors of the initiative call on the civil society and the
political forces to join them. If the article is not considered
as unconstitutional and is not repealed, the initiators propose at
least specifying to which calls the article is applicable to prevent
arbitrary application of the article.

In answer to this proposal the human rights defender Vardan Harutiunyan
noticed that even if this article did not exist, the government would
find another article in the crime code to apply against the opposition
because now arbitrariness and illegality is the reality in Armenia.