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Former Boxer Convicted Over Armenian Opposition Rally

Opposition activist Samson Khachatrian was convicted of assaulting police officers
YEREVAN -- A boxer-turned-opposition activist has walked free from court despite being convicted of assaulting police officers during an opposition rally in Yerevan, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Following a one-day trial, a district court in the Armenian capital gave Samson Khachatrian a suspended one-year prison sentence over the March 1 incident.

The verdict was greeted with rapturous applause and chants of "Samson!" by opposition supporters who carried Khachatrian out of the courtroom on their shoulders. Dozens of other sympathizers cheered him outside the court.

Khachatrian was arrested shortly after an Armenian National Congress (HAK) rally that was held in downtown Yerevan on March 1. Police claimed that he attacked two plainclothes police officers present at the protest.

Both policemen insisted on this version of events in the court. They also claimed they showed their police IDs to Khachatrian before being punched and injured by him.

Khachatrian, who was a renowned Soviet boxer in the 1970s and 1980s, denied that, saying the two never presented themselves as police officers. He also said he only sought to stop the men hitting and verbally abusing female demonstrators.

Khachatrian and the opposition HAK described the charges as politically motivated.

Khachatrian told RFE/RL he will actively participate in further demonstrations planned by the HAK. "If, God forbid, such an incident happens again, I will act in the same way," he said.