For Immediate Release
March 7, 2002
Armenian appeal court upholds not guilty verdict
in trial of Jehovah’s Witness
YEREVAN, Armenia—Today the Armenian Appeal Court upheld the not guilty verdict of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In his September 18, 2001, decision, Judge Mamvel Simonyan had acquitted Lyova Margaryan of all criminal charges under Article 244 of the Armenian Criminal Code, a Soviet-era law used to oppress religious minorities. The Prosecutor’s Office had said that the presence of minors at religious meetings Mr. Margaryan conducted and the refusal of young male Jehovah’s Witnesses to serve in the military gave reason to bring charges against him. The lower court had acquitted Margaryan, and the appeal court upheld that decision, finding that his religious teaching as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is not criminal and is protected by the guarantees of freedom of religion in the Constitution of Armenia.
Mr. Margaryan was visibly relieved when listening to the decision, which came after three months of hearings. “I am happy that the Court came to this just decision. Hopefully, this will help us in our continuing efforts to register our religious organization in Armenia.”
John Burns, a Canadian human rights lawyer assisting in the representation of Mr Margaryan, stated: “This ruling sends the message that Armenia is serious about meeting its obligations to the Council of Europe, and that the Constitution is in force for all citizens of Armenia, regardless of their religious confession.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are an internationally recognized Christian religion. There are over 6 million active members worldwide, with more than 7,000 in Armenia. They are officially recognized in 150 lands, including all countries of Europe. The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly described Jehovah’s Witnesses as a “known religion” entitled to protection by the European Convention of Human Rights.
Contact: J. R. Brown, telephone: (718) 560-5600