Armenia toughens punishment for high treason and espionage

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YEREVAN, February 12. /ARKA/. The Armenian parliament passed Thursday in the first reading a set of amendments to the Criminal Code, which toughen punishment for high treason up to life imprisonments and seizure of property. The punishment for espionage has been raised from 12 to 20 years in prison. The amendments were backed by 109 lawmakers, 1 parliamentarian opposed and 2 abstained.

The amendments were co-sponsored by MPs from the Prosperous Armenia party Vahe Enfiajyan, Naira Zohrabyan and Iveta Tonoyan.

Enfiajyan said that before submitting their proposals for consideration they had consulted with lawyers at the Yerevan State University, the Chamber of Lawyers, the Ministry of Justice, the Police and the National Security Service.

Sergey Atomyan, a member of the standing parliamentary committee on state and legal issues, said that initially the amendments proposed a 20 years in prison and life imprisonment for high treason, but the committee and other lawyers came to the conclusion that the punishment be set 15 to 20 years in prison and up to life in prison to allow the judge to rule a verdict depending on the degree of danger of individual actions.

“In the course of these discussions, we came to the conclusion, which was accepted by the authors of the bill that treason would be imprisoned for 15 to 20 years and life imprisonment,” he said.

Deputy Minister of Justice Armen Hovhannisyan stressed that the changes cannot be applied to cases of high treason and espionage discovered in the future, but committed in the past.

“Both the Constitution and the Criminal Code provide that if a law is toughened, it has no retroactive effect: if at the time of the crime there was a softer law, and later it was toughened, then the toughened law cannot have retroactive effect,” he explained.

That is, crimes of the past disclosed in the future will be brought to criminal responsibility, but the punishment will be imposed in accordance with the law in force at the time of the crime.

MP Nora Arustamyan said that over the past 10 years, about 13 criminal cases into treason and espionage charges have been opened in Armenia. She added that from September 27, 2020 to this day, about 1300 criminal cases have been initiated.

According to the current legislation, treason is punished with imprisonment for a term of 10 to 15 years with or without seizure of property. The punishment for espionage is imprisonment for a term of 8 to 15 years.

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