January 24
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The European Court of Human Rights rejected the lawsuit of three Armenian citizens who were convicted of obstructing the work of the election commission at the polling station during the 2008 presidential election.

The ECHR documents state that Petros Makeyan, Shota Saghatelyan and Ashot Zakaryan participated in the election campaign of President Levon Ter-Petrosyan. A criminal case was opened against them after the election day on February 19, 2008 in connection with the fact that they fought with members of the election commission in Gyumri, as a result of which the commission did not work for half an hour.

All of them were arrested, but the plaintiffs denied the allegations. The applicants denied the allegations, saying that they had each visited the polling station separately, and had voiced concerns over ballot-box stuffing and wrong passports being stamped.

During the ensuing investigation 11 witnesses, including members of the commission and proxies of

the presidential candidates, were questioned and stated that the applicants had disrupted voting by

arguing with, shouting at and threatening them. The applicants were found guilty as charged in June 2008. Mr Makeyan and Mr Zakaryan were sentenced to several years’ imprisonment each, while Mr Saghatelyan was given a suspended sentence and released. The applicants’ conviction was essentially based on the statements made at the pre-trial stage by the 11 witnesses, which the trial court found more credible. In particular, it considered that the witnesses had retracted their earlier statements because they had feared repercussions from the applicants’ supporters, as evidenced by some of their requests for permission not to attend the trial owing to harassment.

Relying on Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial), the applicants complained that the criminal proceedings against them had been unfair because the domestic courts had used retracted pre-trial statements to convict them.

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