For Immediate Release
April 18, 2002
Armenian High Court to hear appeal
of not guilty verdict in trial of Jehovah’s Witness
YEREVAN, Armenia—Tomorrow, April 19, 2002, at 11:00 a.m., Armenia’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, will consider the case against Mr. Lyova Margaryan. The Prosecutor’s Office is appealing a lower court’s decision that found Mr. Margaryan not guilty of all charges brought against him under Article 244 of the criminal code. Mr. Margaryan was being prosecuted for his religious activity as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The verdict of not guilty was subsequently upheld by the three-member panel of the Armenian Court of Appeal, which ruled that it “finds no criminal content in the actions of L. Margaryan.”
In their written appeal, Prosecutors Piloyan and Avakyan have asked the High Court to overturn both not guilty verdicts previously rendered and “to return the case for a retrial for the handing down of a guilty verdict.” The Court of first instance had found Mr. Margaryan not guilty and then the Court of Appeal upheld that decision.
Lawyers for Mr. Margaryan deem the continuing appeals by the Prosecutor’s Office and any retrial to be a form of prosecutorial harassment. If found guilty, the 50-year-old father of three faces a prison sentence of up to five years and would be dismissed from his place of employment. He has stated that he is prepared to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
This case has drawn international media attention and comments from human rights organizations. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in its press release of September 18, 2001, stated: “Although welcoming the verdict [of the Court of first instance], the OSCE Office continues to regret that the prosecution was launched in the first place.”
Contact: J. R. Brown, telephone: (718) 560-5600