Narek Sargsyan is escorted by police officers at Yerevan airport after being extradited from the Czech Republic, December 21, 2019

YEREVAN — A court in Yerevan on Wednesday sentenced today Narek Sargsyan, the nephew of former president Serzh Sargsyan, to 5.5 years in prison for illegal arms possession and drug trafficking.

The criminal case against Narek Sargsyan was launched in June, 2018, by the National Security Service (NSS) of Armenia. He was accused of illegal acquisition, sale, storage, transportation and carrying of weapons, ammunition, explosives, as well as illegal trafficking, manufacture and sale of drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors.

Narek Sargsyan fled Armenia shortly before his family’s house in Yerevan was searched by the NSS. The agency claimed that he asked one of his friends to hide his illegally owned guns, cocaine and other drugs in a safer place.

Sargsyan reportedly produced a fake Guatemalan passport when Czech police detained him in Prague in December 2018. He was extradited to Armenia and immediately arrested there a year later.

Sargsyan pleaded guilty to the accusations when he went on trial last month. He asked the presiding judge to conduct the trial under a so-called “accelerated procedure” that does not involve questioning of witnesses and examination of evidence presented by prosecutors.

One of his lawyers, Artur Pirvazyan, said they will appeal against the verdict because prosecutors altered the charges brought against his client after his extradition to Armenia. Pirvazyan claimed that the prosecutors had no right to do that without Czech authorities’ permission.

The lawyer also said that if the prison sentence is upheld by higher courts Sargsyan will remain in prison for only three and a half years because of having already been under arrest for a total of two years.

Armenia’s Court of Appeals released Sargsyan from custody on bail last November. The higher Court of Cassation overturned that ruling and allowed investigators to send him back to jail in April.

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