Members of armed group that seized police station in Armenia in 2016 sentenced to lengthy prison terms

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YEREVAN, February 24, /ARKA/ A judge presiding over a high-profile trial in Armenia has handed down today lengthy prison terms for members of an armed group known as Sasna Tsrer (Daredevils of Sassoun) that seized a police station in capital Yerevan in 2016 summer.

The gunmen led by retired army colonel Varuzhan Avetisian demanded that then President Serzh Sargsyan free their jailed fellow Zhirayr Sefilian and step down. They laid down their weapons after a two-week standoff with security forces which left three police officers dead.

Many of the armed group’s members were set free pending the outcome of their ongoing trial after the change of government in Armenia in 2018.

Under today’s ruling, an armed group member Pavel Manukyan was sentenced to 7 years and 8 months in prison, Varuzhan Avetisyan to 7 and 4 months, Armen Mkhitaryan to 7 years and 5 months , Eduard Grigoryan to 6.5 years , Gagik Yeghiazaryan to 7.5 years, Areg Kyureghyan to 7.1 years, Sedrak Nazaryan to 8.2 years in prison.

The criminal prosecution against Arayik Khandoyan, who died last year, was terminated. The 1.5 million drams paid by Vahram Petrosyan as a bail for Khandoyan’s release from custory pending trial will be returned to Petrosyan or his authorized person.

Smbat Barseghyan, accused of killing police officers Arthur Vanoyan and Yuri Tepanosyan, was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Armen Bilyan, accused of murdering police officer Gagik Mkrtchyan, was acquitted and released from the courtroom. The prosecutor demanded 21 years for him.

Armen Bilyan was found guilty on other charges (illegal acquisition and carrying of weapons, hostage-taking, theft of weapons) and was given an imprisonment of 4 years 11 months without confiscation of property. Taking into account the time of his detention during the period of preliminary investigation and trial, the preventive measure against Bilyan was replaced with a recognizance not to leave the country until the entry into force of the verdict.

When handing down the sentences, the judge took into account the time the defendants spent in custody during the preliminary investigation.

In August 2018, Sasna Tsrer announced the end of the armed struggle and the beginning of political activity. On September 29, the group founded a party of the same name that took part in early parliamentary elections in December 2018, but failed to clear the 5-percent threshold to enter the legislature by polling less than 2 percent of the vote.

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