Government Begins Trial Against Pro Democracy Protesters

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)Armenia’s Supreme Court started hearing the case of five defendants–charged with participation in mass disorders following the presidential elections in what is called the "Sept. 25" trial on Thursday.

The defendants in the case are Vahe Beknazarian (attorney Marina Galabian)–Hapet Petrossian (attorney Patvakan Khoudoyan)–Seyran Massoyan (attorney Gayaneh Antonian)–Argishti Kivirian (attorney Anahit Yessayan) and Mkrtich Meghavorian (attorney Sergey Hovanessian).

Signs of delays in the proceedings were evident even before the trial actually got under way– observers said. The defendants’ relatives–representatives of political parties–reporters and other interested parties were kept waiting in the halls of the court for an hour before an announcement was made for an additional thirty-minute delay in proceedings.

"It is pointless to discuss the law or legality at this point. This is political trial," said Aghassi Arshakian of the Scientific-Industrial and Civil Union–while awaiting entrance into the courtroom to observe the trial.

"None of these boys took part in any mass disorders," defense attorney Antonian told reporters just before the start of the trial. "As a matter of fact–my client Seyran Massoyan is a veteran of the Karabakh war and was unemployed at the time of his arrest. His curiosity was the only thing that drove him to be among the demonstrators that day," Antonian added.

As for defendant Hapet Petrossian’s presence–he was charged with providing security for presidential candidate Vazgen Manoukian–Antonian said.

"None of the boys ever made it into the National Assembly building as charged in accordance with Article 74 of the Criminal Code," she said.

Member of the judicial board on criminal proceedings of the Armenian Supreme Court and presiding judge of the "Sept. 25" case–Justice Hovik Ghoukassian said that the proceedings would be held simultaneously with the so-called "Trial of 31," and as a result attorneys Galabian–Yessayan and Antonian– who are on the "31" defense team will not be able to attend both proceedings. According to Galabian– Justice Davit Avetissian–who is the presiding judge in the "31" trial is ready to meet the attorneys half way.

Justice Ghoukassian asked the defendants to take into account this fact and seek other counsel. However–defendants Kivirian–Massoyan and Beknazarian insisted on retaining the attorneys in question.

Neither the defendants nor some of the attorneys objected to the absence of the alleged victims at the hearings. However–attorneys Galabian and Antonian said their presence in the courtroom was necessary.

Only three of the 10 alleged victims–Vachakan Aroyan–Sasounik Petrossian and Garnik Khachikian–were in the courtroom Thursday–but said they did not recognize the defendants and believe that their presence was unnecessary.

The judicial board ruled that all alleged victims must attend the court sessions.

The first court hearing was attended by National Assembly member and chairman of the National Democratic Union Vazgen Manoukian–National Assembly deputy and NDU member Shavarsh Kocharian–NDU members Seyran Avakian and Vova Hakhverdian–Constitutional Rights Union member Andranik Bournazian and chairman of the "Supreme Council" deputy club Rouben Torossian.

The next court session was scheduled for Friday.

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