Rafael Ishkhanyan - Political Prisoners in Armenia | Armenia’s Hate Speech Laws | Cases: Samuel Vardanyan. Narek Malyan. Armen Grigorian | Ep 325 - Apr 22, 2024 [EP325]

Posted on Monday, Apr 22, 2024 | Category: Armenia, Spotlight on Silence, Political Prisoners | Series: sos


  • Political Prisoners in Armenia
  • Armenia’s Hate Speech Laws
  • Cases
    • Samuel Vardanyan
    • Narek Malyan
    • Armen Grigorian


Episode 325 | Recorded: April 20, 2024

Show Notes

Political Prisoners in Armenia | Armenia’s Hate Speech Laws | Cases: Samvel Vardanyan, Narek Malyan, Armen Grigoryan

Political Persecution in Armenia

Rafael, six years have passed since the so-called “Velvet Revolution”. Our impression is that most countries, especially western countries that have human rights on their foreign agenda, pay lip service to “Armenia’s democracy.” But is that really the case?

The organization you’re part of, the Helsinki Committee of Armenia recently issued a report, called simply: “Human rights in Armenia, 2023”.

In the report, you focus on several areas, including:

  • Judicial system
  • Freedom of peaceful assembly
  • Torture and violence
  • Political persecution
  • Electoral rights


  • Can you tell us about the areas that your report focuses on?
  • What do you think about the current state of human rights in Armenia, as reflected in your report?

Your report goes into detail about political persecution. We often think of persecution as simply political imprisonment. But that is not the case, right?


  • Can you tell us more about the types of political persecution you’ve examined when preparing your report?

Armenia’s “Hate Speech” Laws

Articles 329 and 330 (Old Article 226)

Today let’s talk about three cases of political persecution and political imprisonment that are related to each other. What they have in common is articles 329 and 330 of the modified criminal code of Armenia, which requalify article 226 of the old code.

The criminal code was modified by the Civil Contract parliament in 2021, during the Covid lockdown period. The existing law on incitement of hate speech (for things such as race) was amended to include additional categories, including “worldview, political or other views”.


  • Can you tell us more about this law, what’s the purpose of this law to start with? How have the 2021 amendments changed it?
  • How tough of a prison sentence does the law prescribe?


Samvel Vardanyan

So let’s talk about this first case, which is the most recent, involving Samvel Vardanyan.

  • Samvel Vardanyan was arrested for insulting MP Hakob Aslanyan of the Civil Contract party in Armenia.
  • Initially charged with hooliganism, later with inciting political enmity (262.2).
  • Altercation captured on video, showing insults and physical confrontation.
  • Vardanyan was allegedly beaten by masked individuals while in custody.
  • Lawyers claim the attack occurred while Vardanyan was being escorted by police.
    • Note: apparently the policemen left him alone and went off for some private business, then returned, after the assault.
  • Vardanyan subjected to humiliation and sexual harassment during the beating.
  • Police officers allegedly complicit in the attack, according to Vardanyan’s lawyers.
  • Rights activists condemn the incident, criticize lack of police reforms.
  • The Ministry of Internal Affairs launches an anti-corruption investigation, but two days later.
  • The Human Rights Defender’s office calls for the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the case, but again, several days later.


  • What can you tell us about this case?
  • What selective prosecution or double standards can you point to?

Narek Malyan

**Ceaușescu case **(ԵԴ/1131/01/21):

  • Directed performance of execution of Nicolae Ceaușescu in 2021
  • Charged with public justifying violence (politically motivated)
  • Exonerated by lower courts in 2023
  • After appeal, lower court verdict was upheld

Facebook live on Sep 19 (ԵԴ1/1803/01/23):

  • After the events of Sep 19, 2023 (ethnic cleansing of Artsakh, protests in Yerevan) he allegedly made insults against top Civil Contract leaders and insulted their relatives.
  • Charged with “inciting hatred and intolerance”.
  • According to international norms, calls for inciting violence should create conditions of impending danger for violence.
  • Detention: Arrested on Sep 20, 2023 and in detention since
  • On Friday, April 12, a court of first instance in Yerevan found that Narek Malyan engaged in “public calls for violence”.
  • Malyan has been in pre-trial detention since last September and he will serve another 5 months and some days behind bars, according to the sentence.
  • The key evidence used to prosecute him was edited out of context and the original evidence was not presented in court.
  • More details: https://armhels.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Ditord-2023arm.pdf


  • What can you tell us about this case?
  • What selective prosecution or double standards can you point to?

Armen Grigoryan

  • Armen Grigoryan collapsed and died in a Yerevan courtroom during his trial on July 15, 2022.
  • Grigoryan had been in pre-trial detention since May 2022 on charges of inciting hatred under Article 226 of the Criminal Code.
  • Grigoryan’s lawyer sought dismissal of the case, claiming no reason for his presence in court.
  • Authorities stated his lawyers didn’t inform them of his medical history or request special treatment.
  • Opposition raised concerns about Grigoryan’s detention conditions and accused the government of killing him.
  • Grigoryan’s alleged derogatory remarks about certain Armenian regions and their inhabitants contributed to his charges.
  • Critics claim selective application of laws against opposition members.
  • Grigoryan’s detention occurred amid political tensions and resistance movements.
  • Former head of National Security Service suggested Grigoryan’s year-long freedom without crime should have prevented his detention.


  • What can you tell us about this case?
  • What selective prosecution or double standards can you point to?


All right, that’s our show, we hope you found it useful. Please find us on Social Media and follow us everywhere you get your Armenian news.

Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts.


Rafael Ishkhanyan

Rafael Ishkhanyan

Rafael Ishkhanyan is a lawyer specializing in human rights, particularly freedom of assembly and expression. He coordinates the monitoring of peaceful assemblies at the Helsinki Committee of Armenia and is a member of the ODIHR Panel of Experts on Freedom of Assembly and Association. In 2023, together with colleagues, he co founded the Armenian Center for Political Rights, a watchdog organization focusing on detecting, responding to, and preventing political persecution and safeguarding political rights.


Hovik Manucharyan

Hovik Manucharyan

Hovik Manucharyan is an information security engineer who moved from Seattle to Armenia in 2022. He co-founded the ANN/Groong podcast in 2020 and has been a contributor to Groong News since the late 1990s.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by Hovik Manucharyan on the ANN/Groong podcast are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of his employer or any other organization.

Asbed Bedrossian

Asbed Bedrossian

Asbed is founder of the Armenian News Network Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.

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