YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The Armenian National Assembly on Wednesday voted to approve an amnesty bill timed to the 100th anniversary of the First Armenian Republic and the 2800th anniversary of the foundation of Yerevan marked this year.
Seventy-two lawmakers of the 105-seat body voted in favor of the bill, with no one voting against the measure or abstaining from the vote.
The second reading of the bill and its final adoption are expected on November 1.
Acting Justice Minister Artak Zeynalian, who presented the draft legislation in parliament, said the proposed amnesty would in one way or another apply to an estimated 6,500 people, with 660 of 2,888 due to be released from prisons.
Specifically, according to Zeynalian, convicts serving sentences of up to three years in prison are to be released and prosecutions of people, launched before October 1, 2018, on charges punishable by up to three years in prison are to be discontinued. Amnesty will also cover people who committed crimes by negligence and face up to five years in prison.
First and second-group disabled convicts serving sentences of up to six years in prison as well as some other categories of convicts, including pregnant women, people aged above 60 or below 18 who meet specific criteria, are also to be covered by the amnesty.
The current amnesty also applies to members of the Sasna Tsrer armed group that seized and held for two weeks a police compound in Yerevan in July 2016 and members of the radical opposition Founding Parliament movement who were tried and convicted of plotting a coup in 2015.
The amnesty does not apply to people who committed heavy crimes, were engaged in trafficking, obstructed journalists’ professional work, committed high treason, terrorist acts, sabotages and other serious crimes.
As for convicts serving life sentences, according to the acting justice minister, an individual approach will be shown in each case, as, he said, the Ministry is not entitled to revise sentences of such convicts.
Families of a number of convicts serving life sentences have staged protests in front of the National Assembly building demanding that the current amnesty, which the government describes as the largest ever in Armenian history, be also somehow applied to their relatives.