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Appeal Court Upholds 6-Year Imprisonment for Samvel Babayan

The Armenian Appeal Court today upheld the imprisonment of former Nagorno-Karabakh defense minister Samvel Babayan. The prison sentences of the other two defendants, Sanasar Gabrielyan and Armen Poghosyan, have also been left unchanged – 3 and 2.5 years respectively.

Babayan was arrested in March, 2017, and sentenced the following November to 6 years in jail after a Yerevan district court found him guilty of money laundering and attempting to smuggle a Russian-made Igla shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile into Armenia.

“This was obviously a politically-motivated decision. Both the court of first instance and the Appeal Court made a political decision on a fabricated case. Today, the three judges basically fled the courtroom immediately after reading out the verdict. They were aware of court that they had issued a shameful decision,” political analyst Andranik Tevanyan said in a conversation with reporters.

He insisted that the reason for Babayan’s arrest was the escalation of political tensions in Armenia last April: “[The authorities] wanted to create an atmosphere of fear before the election.”

Note, Samvel Babayan was a strong supporter of the opposition ORO bloc co-headed by former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan, former foreign minister Vardan Oskanyan, and past presidential candidate Raffi Hovannisyan in the Armenian parliamentary elections last April. Speaking to reporters following Babayan’s arrest, Ohanyan had said Babayan “is our ideological brother.” He had also suggested that the arrest “could be related to the operations carried out against ORO” in the pre-election period.