YEREVAN, Armenia (A.W.)—On Oct. 14, Yanis Sarkisov was accused of beating to death his 20-year-old wife Zaruhi Petrosyan, and received a 10-year prison sentence.
The chairperson of the Women’s Resource Center in Yerevan (WRCA), Lara Aharonian, told the Armenian Weekly that the verdict was satisfactory given the current Armenian reality. It is the maximum penalty under Article 112 (part 2, code 14: “intentional damage caused to health resulting in death”). Sarkisov could have received as little as a six-year jail term.
“Our expectations were so much lower that we were very happy hearing the judge pronouncing 10 years, the maximum. In reality we were expecting not more than six to eight years,” said Aharonian.
On Oct. 1, 2010, Petrosyan, the mother of an infant girl named Lilia, was killed after having sustained days of physical abuse at the hands of her husband and mother-in-law, according to her sister Hasmig.
The trial was fair, according to Aharonian. “[It was] conducted very well and the judge and prosecutor did their job in a very conscientious and professional way,” she said. “This is something we are not used to experiencing in Armenia.”
The Coalition to Stop Violence against Women played an important role throughout the trial, said Aharonian. The coalition, an umbrella for seven organizations including the WRCA, was formed after Petrosyan’s brutal death. During the final court session, the defense team accused the coalition of pressuring the judge and the media, and demanded that its members be removed from the courtroom. The judge, however, paid no heed, said Aharonian. “It is fair to say that this is a first victory. Now it’s time to concentrate more on pushing the law on domestic violence, and to continue the work of the coalition in further promoting the cause.”
Sarkisov, who was arrested soon after Zaruhi’s death, denied having committed any crime. “I am not guilty,” he said in his initial statement. “She fell and died.”
According to Hasmig, by the time Zaruhi died, she had already been subjected to days of beatings, suffering broken knees and, ultimately, a crushed skull. Her sister believes her fingers were broken when she tried to dial for help. Neighbors said Sarkisov had thrown Zaruhi’s body down a flight of stairs to attribute her injuries to a fall.
Initial statements made by friends and family alleged that Sakisov’s mother, Lilia Sarkisova, also beat Zaruhi. Sarkisova, however, has not been charged, and currently has custody of Zaruhi’s daughter. Some activists have protested the placement of the child with Sarkisova, in the form of letters to the authorities and appeals to the Child Protection Agency.
Zaruhi Petrosyan’s death shed light on the problem of domestic violence in Armenia, and gave rise to calls for the adoption of domestic violence laws by authorities.