Journalist released from jail with suspended sentence
(JuHI/IFEX) - According to information gathered by JuHI, on Thursday 27 April 2000, a pro-opposition journalist in the Nagorno-Karabakh territory of the Azerbaijan Republic which is under occupation of the neighboring Republic of Armenia, was released from jail after an appeals court suspended his one-year sentence, widely condemned as violating freedom of speech.
On 12 April, Vahram Aghajanian, a correspondent for the Khankendi-based "Tasnerord Nahang" weekly, was convicted by a municipal court of slandering the "prime minister" of the self-proclaimed and unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), Anushavan Danielian, in an article published last November.
A panel of the self-proclaimed NKR "Supreme Court" ruled that Aghajanian will not be returned to jail unless he commits further crimes during a two-year "test period." The softening of the controversial verdict was widely expected after self-proclaimed NKR "President" Arkady Ghukasian told his law-enforcement agencies on 15 April not to violate press freedom in the face of intensifying criticism.
The journalist communities in Azerbaijan and Armenia had expressed serious concern over the fate of their colleague who they believe is unjustly prosecuted. In a show of solidarity, several papers have re-printed the article for which Aghajanian was jailed.
The journalist's lawyer, Beniamin Minasian, was dissatisfied with the latest verdict, saying that it holds his client hostage to prosecutors and restricts his professional freedom. Minasian said he will appeal the ruling at the Supreme Court's presidium. While supporting the suspended sentence, the prosecution insisted that Aghajanian deliberately misled the public.