Armenia’s National Security Service: ‘Individuals Voluntarily Backing Away from a Crime Can Be Exempted from Criminal Liability’
YEREVAN (A.W.)—Armenian President Serge Sarkisian is ready to meet with imprisoned opposition leader Jirair Sefilian according to Vitaly Balasanian, a retired Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (Artsakh/NKR) general and mediator in the ongoing armed occupation of a Yerevan police station.
“[Sarkisian] has expressed readiness to invite Jirair Sefilian and explain to him the reality and prospects immediately after the group lays down arms and surrenders,” Balasanian said, as cited by Armenia’s ArmenPress news agency.
According to Balasanian, Sefilian no longer supports the armed group’s chief demand of Sarkisian’s resignation, and has since set other conditions.
Lebanese-born Armenian military commander and opposition political activist Jirair Sefilian was arrested in Yerevan on June 20 after Armenian authorities said he planned on leading an armed coup against the government. According to a statement released by Armenia’s Investigative Committee, a total of seven men—including Sefilian—were arrested in connection with the planned coup, and a large arsenal of weapons was confiscated.
On July 23, the armed opposition group calling themselves “Sasna Tsrer,” who have occupied the Yerevan police station since July 17, released all four police officers they were holding hostage, after extensive negotiations with the Armenian government.
During the negotiations, it was agreed that in return for the hostages’ release, Armenian law enforcement officers and authorities would permit the armed group’s leaders to speak to journalists in a neutral zone around the occupied police station. Nearly 40 reporters were transported to the area late Saturday afternoon, though none of them were allowed to hold a live broadcast during the news conference.
Balasanian criticized the armed group for engaging in a “live demonstration of weapons and militancy,” when they fired guns in the air during the conference with reporters. Balasanian called the act “unacceptable,” and urged the gunmen to surrender to law enforcement authorities. During their interview on July 23, two of the gunmen, Varuzhan Avetisian and Pavel Manukian, said they had no intention of giving themselves up and repeated their call for Sarkisian’s resignation.
Armed Group May Avoid Imprisonment
The armed men occupying the Yerevan police station may avoid imprisonment if they surrender to authorities, Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) said on July 25.
“In case of the existence of conditions defined by Armenian legislation, individuals voluntarily backing away from a crime can be exempted from criminal liability,” the NSS said, according to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Azatutyun.am.
“In this regard, the militants were handed on July 25 written clarifications and explanations on the sequence of actions which must be taken by them and the route for their surrender,” the NSS added in its statement. The statement also said that the gunmen “still have time” to lay down their weapons and surrender to police.
The NSS did not say whether the authorities would prosecute any of the men in connection with the killing of an officer during the July 17 takeover of the police station.