court in Vanadazor has returned a verdict in the
murder case of 22-year old Artyom Sargsyan, a
soldier killed by other members of his unit February
25 last year, two months into his conscripted
The Court of First Instance returned guilty verdicts
against soldiers Aghabek Tadevosyan (sentenced
to seven and a half years) and Varuzhan Khachatryan
(four years). A third soldier, Artashes Karapetyan
was sentenced to conditional detention during
the remainder (one year) of his duty.
The court also found sonogram specialist Anahit
Babayan guilty of negligent manslaughter and sentenced
her to two years of "colony" imprisonment,
which she will serve out at her home.
Artyom Sargysan had been a leader of a group
of post-graduate students who protested their
conscription orders, on the basis that they should
be allowed to finish studies before serving their
military duty. But while a court was hearing their
appeal, Sargsyan and about 15 others were taken
into service. (Click
here for more information on the case.)
The court found that Sargsyan was beaten to death
by the three soldiers charged, with Tadevosyan
as the group's leader. But over the past year,
human rights advocates have reported that Sargsyan's
murder was ordered by officers who objected to
his speaking out against the conscription process.
The slain soldier's parents say they are outraged
by what they see as mild sentences and have applied
to an appeals court for a second trial.
Rafael Sargsyan, Artyom's father is himself a
lieutenant-colonel in the army.
"I feel myself humiliated as a military
man and I am inclined to think that Artyom was
killed as a son of a serviceman motivated by hatred
against the Army," the father says.
Artyom's mother, Karine Aghbalyan, had lodged
an objection to the military prosecutor's office
before the verdict was brought demanding to preserve
the announced punishment, being sure that the
sentences would be diminished even in case of
a guilty verdict.
"Judge Aghasi Mkoyan quickly read the verdict
and simply escaped from the court hall,"
says Karine. "I approached the accuser Arman
Mazmanyan and told him, 'You killed my son for
the second time'."
Initially 15 army men were accused of Sargsyan's
death, including his unit commander, five medical
attendants and regular soldiers.
Unit commander Andranik Sahakyan served a year
in detention for his part in the crime. The court
found that he should be freed for time served.
is a person who did not allow the post-mortem
of my son by delaying it, as he had no time to
repair the room where my son was beaten to hide
the traces," says Rafael Sargsyan.
"This boy who drove my son to death was
set free. So it is possible to beat a person to
death with a group and then justify saying that
he helped the investigation to detect the crime
and set him free," complains Karine. "Instead
of that they arrested a boy who in fact had the
least part of guilt."
The parents say only through bribery would such
a verdict be reached.
"The more money you give the less severe
punishment you will get and vice versa,"
says Karine, who alleges that Karapetyan received
no prison time because his father is a tax officer.
The five military doctors were found not guilty
even though their testimony that Sargsyan died
of an infection contradicted forensic reports
of numerous wounds and bruises.
The forensic report also found that Sargsyan's
death was due in part to delayed treatment. (For
36 hours he was kept in isolation, where he died.)
During the trial, nurse Gayane Mkoyan testified
"Artyom was shouting to either give him
an effective anesthetic or 'hit my head with something
and kill me'. However, nobody helped him. When
I told the head of the hospital about that, he
responded, 'He is a soldier, he will bear it'."
The president of the Helsinki Association of
Armenia, Michael Danielyan, says his organization
will prepare an appeal to the Court of Strasbourg
which deals with human rights issues and is a
right afforded members of the European Council.
"The verdict that was brought by the court
was not unexpected for us," Danielyan says.
"And the fact that the prosecutor's office
protects interests of the defense side and not
the opposite is the most popular practice in Armenia."