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Armenia: Drugs in cake prison scam led to human rights violations

Human rights judges have sided with a prisoner who complained that Armenia’s authorities were wrong to prevent him questioning prosecution witnesses against him.

In the case Avetisyan v. Armenia (application no. 13479/11), the European Couirt of Human Rights rumled on 10 November that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 read in conjunction with Article 6 § 3 (d) – on account of the applicant Davit Avetisyan’s inability to question the witnesses.

The court awarded 2,400 euros (EUR) (non-pecuniary damage) and EUR 500 (costs and expenses) to Avetisyan as just satisfaction.

Avetisyan, an Armenian national born in 1971, was serving a prison sentence in a penitentiary institution in Yerevan at the time he submitted his application.

In April 2009, Avetisyan, his friend and two other persons visited a mutual friend who was in prison in Goris. His friend, D.T., and the others, D.O. and M.S., bought a cake, which was handed to the prison administration to be delivered to their friend. Later inspection revealed that a syringe containing narcotics had been hidden inside the cake.

Avetisyan was charged with acquiring and supplying narcotics. During the investigation, M.S., D.T. and D.O. gave evidence against Avetisyan. Avetisyan was able to confront M.S., but not D.T. or D.O. Judge D. of the Regional Court summoned M.S., D.T. and D.O. to appear at the trial, and later compelled M.S. and D.T. to attend. By the time of trial, however, police reported that M.S. had moved to St Petersburg, while D.T.’s mother had told the authorities that he was in Yerevan for medical treatment.

The Regional Court decided to proceed with the trial in the absence of M.S., D.T. and D.O. It convicted Avetisyan, sentencing him to five and a half years’ imprisonment.

An appeal to the Court of Appeal was rejected, and a further appeal to the Court of Cassation was declared inadmissible on 20 August 2010.

Relying on Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (d) (right to a fair trial and right to obtain attendance and examination of witnesses) of the European Convention on Human Rights, Avetisyan complained that his trial had been unfair because his conviction had been based entirely on the evidence of D.T., D.O. and M.S., who he had had no fair opportunity to examine.

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