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Armenian Policemen Convicted For Beating Protester

YEREVAN -- Two Armenian police officers have been convicted of using disproportionate force in breaking up protests following the February 2008 presidential election, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

A Yerevan court sentenced Gegham Harutiunian and Hovannes Ghukasian to two years in prison on December 25 for beating a man shortly after the predawn break-up on March 1, 2008 of a tent camp set up by the opposition in the capital's Liberty Square.

But both men qualify for a general amnesty declared in June and will not be imprisoned. They will, however, be banned for one year from working for law-enforcement or other state bodies.

The ruling came just over a week after two other policemen received three-year prison sentences, also covered by the amnesty, for their harsh treatment of two people in Yerevan on March 2, 2009.

In both trials the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying that they acted in self-defense.

Harutiunian and Ghukasian insisted that they hit the unidentified opposition protester with truncheons because he threw stones and verbally abused them.

Their lawyer, Arshak Tovmasian, said it is the protester and not his "innocent" clients who should have been prosecuted.

State prosecutors said the use of force was illegal and unnecessary because the victim was lying on the ground and no longer resisted police during the incident, which was videotaped.

The March 1-2, 2008 clashes in Yerevan between opposition protesters and security forces left 10 people dead and more than 200 others injured.