Preliminary Hearings End in “Trial of 31″

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Preliminary witness testimony was completed in the "31" Trial Wednesday afternoon–as the case will now move on to cross-examination and more detailed questioning of individuals involved.

According to preliminary testimony given Wednesday by witness Karen Babakhanian–one of the defendants in the case–Gagik Karapetian–encouraged him to take part in preparations for an armed coup.

However–Babakhanian said he and his comrade–Samvel Hakobian–refused to do so. Karapetian under oath later refuted the testimony of Babakhanian–reminding the court that another witness–S.Hakobian–had also refuted similar testimony when questioned.

Another witness–Roubik Ghukassian–testified that defendant Ashot Avetissian had told him earlier about his intentions to set up armed groups in case of armed resistance on the part of the authorities in response to the demand for resignation.

When called to testify himself–Avetissian refuted Ghoukassian’s claims as being fraudulent.

Noting that according to this testimony–the witness did not refuse Avetissian–and that moreover–he had repeatedly asked to let him have the plan of the "coup," defendant Vahan Hovhannissian said that Ghoukassian should be charged with misprision under Article 84 of Armenia’s penal code–and with high treason under Article 59.

Public defender Bagrat Yesayan drew the Court’s attention to the fact that criminal proceedings against two witnesses had been dismissed in the past–while no information on the institution of the foregoing proceedings was provided in the case materials.

The court hearing have been postponed until Friday due to the sudden illness of one of the witnesses in the case.

Preliminary testimony by M.Vardanian–A .Shirvanian–M. Nikogossian–V. Petrossian–R .Kazanchian–T. Karapetian and G.Bilboulian–material witnesses–who refused to appear in court–were read during the Saturday session of the "Trial of 31."

Although the testimonies do not corroborate the coup theories of the Armenian authorities–the defense maintains the material to be unreliable for submission as evidence.

In regards to testimony by Vardanian–the defendants and their attorneys said they were puzzled that "the resentment against the authorities" and "the people’s peaceful exercise of their constitutional rights toward the authorities" are viewed as criminal acts.

In Vahan Hovanessian’s opinion–the expression "to come out against the authorities" does not imply only a coup–but the matter may also concern a legal change of leadership by means of peaceful demonstrations (the testimony does not contain the word "coup").

The Defense believes that the testimony by Kazanchian corroborates the statemen’s made by the defendants that the court testimony of police officer Petrossian–who survived in the incident on Leningradian Street–cannot be considered reliable. In particular–Petrossian deposed that he had helped take the wounded policeman to the hospital–while according to the testimony of Kazanchian–the policeman left the place and went to the Mashtots police precinct.

According to witness Bilboulian–defendant Arsen Yeritsian told him that there had been an incident on the way from Karabakh to Yerevan in which two policemen died and another was wounded.

Public attorney Bagrat Yesayan drew the Court’s attention to the fact that the road from Karabakh lies through Ararat–where the defendants stayed and not through Yerevan.

The attorney said he was puzzled over the fact that no criminal proceedings had been instituted against the witness–though the corpus delicti was quite evident (Article 206–i.e. misprison of felony).

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