By Lusine Musayelian

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic government building

STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)-Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh declared on
Tuesday a general amnesty which they said will lead to the early
release of about 20 percent of the prison population.

The Karabakh parliament approved a corresponding bill put forward by
President Bako Sahakian.

Officials in Stepanakert refused to specify how many convicts will be
set free as a result of the amnesty dedicated to the 20th anniversary
of Karabakh's declaration of independence from Azerbaijan. The
total number of persons serving prison sentences in Karabakh is also
not known.

The bill stipulates that the amnesty will not apply to individuals
convicted of murder, rape, robberies and other grave crimes. It will
mainly affect those sentenced to up to three years' imprisonment or
underage convicts.

Other prisoners serving longer sentences can have their jail terms
cut by at least one-third if they participated in the 1991-1994 war
or are related to individuals killed in the fighting.

Speaking in the parliament, Sahakian's chief legal aide, Ara Lazarian,
said the amnesty will also require local law-enforcement bodies to
close at least 60 percent of pending criminal cases that have not
yet been sent to courts and to free relevant criminal suspects. The
cases relate to non-grave crimes committed before August 1.