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Six Armenian Conscripts on Trial Based Solely on Officers’ ‘False’ Testimonies, Mother Claims

Karen Khachatryan, the commander of a Sisian military unit who, according to army officials, was beaten by six drunk soldiers for nearly 10 minutes in May, 2016, did not suffer any injuries but for a black eye; the servicemen suspected of the beating, however, are facing charges under Article 358.3.1 of Armenia's criminal code (battery or other violent actions against the commander committed by a group of people with grave or medium gravity damage to the health) which carries a 4-year minimum and an 8-year maximum jail sentence.

Speaking to Epress.am, the mother of arrested 20-year-old Arsen Hakobyan, Anahit Hakobyan, insisted that there was only a “small argument” between the soldiers and the officer while authorities “are doing their best” to shift the entire blame to the soldiers. “People this young should not be sentenced to 8 years behind bars,” the woman said. “Soldiers are not respected in our country; [authorities] always blame conscripts when things go wrong but never officers. The country's prisons are filled with young soldiers.”

That day, according to Hakobyan, the young men were celebrating the birthday of one of the soldiers when commander Karen Khachatryan came and told them to stand in line. “He then demanded that drunk soldiers step forward. He cursed at one of the kids, initiated a brawl, and the other guys went in to separate them.” The soldier's mother added that the charges were based on the “false” testimonies of 5 other officers who claimed that the servicemen beat Khachatryan up for ten minutes continuously. The unit commander himself, however, has said that he didn't remember who had attacked him. 

“These 6 soldiers were arrested based solely on witness testimonies,” Hakobyan said. “He would have died if he had been beaten and kicked non-stop for ten minutes. But according to forensic medical experts, he only suffered a black eye. How is that even possible? Besides, why didn't these witnesses intervene during these 10 minutes he was supposedly being beaten up?” 

Prior to the incident, the interviewee stated, Karen Khachatryan had been given a suspended sentence with a one-year probation period for “improper performance of military service obligations and desertion.” “And they still allowed him to work with these kids… Such is our army. The parents would give money whenever the kids had to go to combat positions; we've even paid for their car's engine. The state supports its soldiers at our expense; is this how they repay us?”