Armenia: Ambassador’s Son Released Early

The son of Armenia’s ambassador to Georgia, convicted in September of trafficking hashish has been released from prison after serving less than half of his sentence.

Davit Vardanyan, the 30-year-old son of Ambassador Yuri Vardanyan, was sentenced to four years in September for attempting to smuggle the drug into Armenia. At that time, he had already been in custody for nearly a year.

In October 2013, he tried to bring seven grams of the drug from Iran into Armenia through the southern border crossing at Meghri hidden in rubber thimbles, which he swallowed. He also concealed an unspecified amount of the drug in his hand luggage.

Gor Glechyan, spokesman for Armenia’s Department of Corrections, said Vardanyan was conditionally released for good behavior.

Activists and inmates complain that the conditional release program in Armenia is not implemented consistently, with some allegedly favored over others arbitrarily.

Mayis Khachatryan, a cousin of the Governor of Syunik, Sourik Khachatryan, was released in 2011 after serving just over half of a 12-year sentence for the stabbing murder of Hovhannes Badalyan.

By comparison, Aram Gasoyan, who has served 10 years of a 14-year sentence, has been denied parole seven times by an administrative panel. Gasoyan has a family and no prior record. The criteria for release appear to say that those with families and no previous arrests get priority consideration for early release, but authorities have refused to refer his case to an independent parole board.

Between 2006 and 2010, Armenia prisoners granted conditional release by independent parole panels dropped from 22 percent to 7 percent, according to Civil Society Institute figures. OCCRP partner Hetq asked the Armenian Department of Corrections earlier this year how many inmates appeared before independent parole panels seeking conditional release each year. The Department said that they do not keep such statistics.