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Armenian Journalist Spurns 'Illegal' Amnesty

Gagik Shamshian
Gagik Shamshian
YEREVAN -- An Armenian photojournalist who was sentenced for contempt of court has successfully petitioned authorities in Yerevan to rule illegal the amnesty that was granted to him in July, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Gagik Shamshian was found guilty and fined 350,000 drams ($950) earlier this year for allegedly insulting a judge during the trial of opposition activists arrested following last year's postelection unrest in Yerevan.

Armenia's Appeals Court ruled on July 15 that he qualifies for an amnesty adopted by parliament in June.

But the National Assembly stipulated that the legislation cannot apply to individuals who have been granted amnesty under a previous bill for crimes committed within the last 10 years.

Shamshian had received a 30-month prison sentence on similarly controversial charges in 2007 that was overturned by the 2001 pardon.

Shamshian said on August 17 that he noted this fact during the court hearing on his case. He told RFE/RL that he told the court that it had "no right to apply the amnesty to me because that's against the law."

Shamshian says the judges told him they were doing him "a favor."

The Prosecutor-General's Office acknowledged late last week that the court decision was a serious "judicial mistake."

Shamshian insisted that he will not pay the fine, calling the verdict "unfounded." He said he plans to appeal his case at the European Court of Human Rights.