Activist Takes Cops to Court in Armenia

YEREVAN (A.W.)–Mariam Sukhudyan, the activist who uncovered cases of sexual abuse by a long-time teacher at a special needs school in a Yerevan suburb, is now pressing charges against authorities and the police for violating her right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. She is seeking one million dram in compensation for moral damages.

The activist who uncovered cases of sexual abuse at a special needs school in a Yerevan suburb is now pressing charges against authorities for violating her right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The court hearing is scheduled to take place at noon on Nov. 1, at Center and Nork Marash regional court, and is open to the public. Garine Bedrosyan is set to preside over the hearing.

Sukhudyan has specifically named chief-of-police Alik Sargsyan and the head of public relations branch of the police department, Sayat Shirinyan, for violating article 18 of the Republic of Armenia’s criminal code, which states that a suspect is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

In the early days of the Nubarashen scandal, Sargsyan said, “[Mariam] has come forth with groundless accusations; has accused innocent folk; and has instigated minors to commit punishable acts.” Similarly, during an interview, Shirinyan called Sukhudyan a “criminal.”

Sukhudyan has said that if she wins the case, she does not intend to keep the money. “I will give the money specifically to those kids who suffered at that school. That’s the money that should have reached them, but never did.”

In November 2008, Sukhudyan, an environmental activist, had publicized allegations of sexual abuse made by students against a teacher at the Nubarashen School #11, a specialized boarding school for disabled children in Yerevan’s Nubarashen suburb, where she had volunteered. To her dismay, in August 2009, the then 29-year-old activist was charged with “false denunciation for illicit gain”—she was accused of intentionally slandering the teacher’s name and reputation for her own personal benefit.

In March 2010, Sukhudyan was awarded the U.S. Embassy of Armenia’s first ever Woman of Courage Award by U.S. Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch, who commended Mariam for her environmental and civic activism.

A day after receiving the U.S. ambassador’s award, Armenia’s law enforcement authorities announced that the criminal case against Sukhudyan had been officially dropped.

On May 24, Levon Avagian, the former Armenian language and literature teacher accused of sexually abusing his students at the Nubarashen, was sentenced to two years of imprisonment by the Erebuni Court. Five former students—the “injured party”—came forward to testify.

The court found Avagian, who taught at Nubarashen between 1985-2008, guilty under two parts of Article 142 of the RA criminal code. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail under the first count, and 18 months under the second. Soon after this verdict, the school principal, Meruzhan Yengibaryan, who was accused of covering up the abuses, was removed from office by RA Minister of Education and Science Armen Ashotyan.

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Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).
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@NanoreB

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7 Comments

  1. These are the glimmers of hope, the signs of a new, awakening, stretching and emerging Armenia. Thank you, Nanore, for covering such a critical story so appropriately.

  2. MARIAM SUKHUDYAN IS A VERY COURAGEOUS PERSON. THANKS TO HER CHANGES WILL START FILTERING THROUGH THAT KIND OF INSTITUTIONS. THE MEDIA SHOULD TALK ABOUT THESE KIND OF CASES TO SLOWLY BRING CHANGES. GOOD LUCK MARIAM.

  3. the blood of sose’ mayrik runs through this armenian herosuhi,
    we the justice loving people, are behind you mariam
    oppression should not be tolerated by any armenian living anywhere in the world, especially NOT in aremenia by her own people,
    anyone who is trying to throw their weight around, exercising unwarranted dominance, disrespecting human right, and acting uncivilized, while  hiding behind their civil titles, should be fined, fired, and my choice of punishment would be to exile them to azerbaijan

  4. It is duty of every Diaspora Armenian to be involved and support democracy and justice in our beloved country for the sake of our young future generation of Armenia!!
    Dear Mariam you are an exceptional lady, and may God bless you for your will power, courage, and determination..and thanks to Nanore for covering this very important article!!

  5. It would be a big step for Armenia for Democrazy if this police guys would be punished. But its usually very hard to win against police in justice. Also here in Switzerland.

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