CHILD ABUSE PLEA: EX-TEACHER PLEADS GUILTY, BUT AVOIDS OTHER CHARGES
News | 13.05.10 | 14:40
On prosecution’s demand Avagyan is facing 1.5 years’ imprisonment
for child abuse.
SOS for Campaigner: "Whistleblower" sees accusatory finger pointed
at her From slander to justice: teacher in Yerevan accused of sexual
harassment will face court
A former teacher of Yerevan’s boarding school has pled guilty to
"obscene acts" against underage students and now faces 18 months
During a court trial on Wednesday, Levon Avagyan, whose actions
were described by the prosecutor as pedophilia, also asked for a
"speedy trial" amid protest from some of the victims who consider
such an imprisonment term too mild a punishment for "a person who
has committed repugnant acts for years."
Avagyan stands accused of committing obscene acts accompanied with
violence which calls for maximum punishment of three years in prison
(part 2 of Article 142 of Armenia’s Criminal Code).
"Since he has admitted his guilt and has shown repentance, an
accelerated trial procedure will be applied and the sentence cannot
exceed two thirds of the maximum sentence provided for this crime,"
Karen Badikyan, the counsel for the prosecution, told ArmeniaNow.
Meanwhile, the lawyer of the victims has raised objections, saying
that strict punishment is applied for pedophiles all around the world,
with capital punishment even used in certain instances.
Avagyan, a 59-year-old former Armenian language and literature teacher,
had worked at the school for children with special needs in Yerevan’s
southern suburb of Nubarashen for 25 years before retiring following
a sex abuse scandal last year. His former and [then] current students
claimed that during that period he would abuse them not only sexually,
but also physically.
Police opened a probe into student claims after a civic activist
alerted media about alleged abuse at the school in late 2008. Police,
however, cleared Avagyan of wrongdoing last summer and instead turned
against the whistleblower, Mariam Sukhudyan, accusing her of false
denunciation. Investigators closed the case against Sukhudyan, accused
of slander, only in March (shortly after she received a Woman of
Courage award from U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch). The
case by then again had turned against the former teacher.
In closing remarks, prosecutor Badikyan described Avagyan as "cruel
and callous" and that he was known to whip children who misbehaved
using "special devices" for punishment.
Hasmik Sinanyan, 17, a victim in the case, also confirms that Avagyan
used physical violence and insists that this circumstance should be
considered in determining his ultimate sentence.
"In the event of a speedy trial, during which witnesses are not
questioned, a case is not examined properly, victims cannot tell about
what their [preliminary] testimony does not contain, that is about
instances of physical violence, which was of a recurrent nature. Based
on this the charge should be re-qualified and a stricter sentence
should be determined," attorney Hayrapetyan told ArmeniaNow.
Former students of Avagyan, who are not recognized as victims in the
current proceedings, also tell about abuse and violence used by the
1989 graduate of the Nubarashen School Gayane Sargsyan, 37, told
ArmeniaNow that Avagyan would subject his students to brutal beating
during the years of her studies.
"Avagyan was on night duties, he would wake up girls at night and
would take them to the boys’ wing and would force them to do squatting
exercises for hours. When we could take no more, he would hit us in
the stomach, knocking us unconscious. Further, he would hit us for
what he thought was pretence, would pour water on us so we come to
our senses and proceed with the punishment. Once he hit one of the
children so violently that the girl hit her head against the heating
system radiator and lost consciousness," said Sargsyan about her and
others’ ordeal while at Nubarashen.
Despite objections from the victims’ side, the court decided to apply
a speedy trial procedure and postponed the trial until May 19.