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Parole Commission Denies Early Release for Outspoken Armenian Veteran

An Armenian independent commission for early conditional release of prisoners denied a motion seeking early release of Volodya Avetisyan, a Karabakh war veteran and reserve army colonel who was sentenced to 6.5 years imprisonment for fraud last year, Gor Ghlechyan, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry's Penitentiary Department, told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

The retired colonel, as stated by the official, will soon be informed about the parole decision-making commission's ruling. 

About a week ago, Azatutyun.am writes, Volodya Avetisyan told his friends that several commission members had visited him in prison, asked some questions and said a hearing would be conducted on October 25. “Volodya Avetisyan and his relatives have been trying for five days to receive the decision. For the second time, the independent commission has groundlessly denied the war veteran an early release.”

Note, investigation against Avetisyan started in 2013. In summer 2014, a Yerevan first instance court found him guilty of fraud and attempted fraud and sentenced him to 6.5 years in jail. According to the indictment, Avetisyan received $2,000 from Henrikh Zakaryan to exempt his grandson from compulsory military service and attempted to receive $500 from Albert Matosyan to transfer his son to another military unit.  All higher judicial instances subsequently upheld the verdict. 

During the entire process, Avetisyan denied the accusations, claiming that prosecution against him started shortly after he initiated protests demanding better social conditions and treatment for Karabakh war veterans. 

In spring, 2014, opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan stated during a Parliament session that Avetisyan's arrest was politically motivated. The lawmaker recalled that in May, 2013, the veteran tried to raise the issue with Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan, shortly after which he was accused of fraud.

In response to Pashinyan’s statement, Ohanyan said that he had met with Volodya Avetisyan and they had agreed that Ohanyan would discuss the matter with the “country’s leadership,” however, the Minister claimed, Avetisyan went back on their agreement and proceeded to organizing protests. Ohanyan also denied that Avetisyan’s imprisonment was politically motivated.