Rights Groups Demand End to “31” Trial

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Three Russian human rights organizations including Moscow Helsinki Group–the Memorial Human Rights Center and the Civil Assistance Public Organization spoke for immediate cancellation of the "Trial of 31" and the release of all political prisoners in the case who are–according to the rights groups–being tried for their ideological differences and not any actual crimes.

Duma deputy Galina Starovoytova voiced her strong support for this declaration calling for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience.

The statement released by the groups characterized the current trial as another step in the continuing suspension of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. The statement further stated that the trial represented another tactic of the Armenian authorities in hampering the legitimate political activity of the country’s opposition parties.

According to the human rights advocates–the violations in the case are numerous–and they include breach of protocol–lack and non-existence of material evidence or witnesses. They also noted a large number of reports on defendant abuse and torture–including for the purposes of extracting signed testimonies from defendants during preliminary investigations.

To prove the political nature of the process–the statement points out that the defendants were no longer charged with high treason and plotting of a terrorist act–a move by the prosecution during the proceedings–when an arbitrary move was made to alter the charges against the political prisoners. Furthermore–article 67 of the Criminal Code (organizational and preparatory actions aimed at launching and running anti-state propaganda) was replaced by the article 65 (calls for a forcible overthrow of power) which is hard to prove.

The statement was signed by Moscow Helsinki Group head Lidia Alexeyeva–director of the Memorial Human Rights Center Tatyana Kasatkina–head of the Civil Assistance Organization Svetlana Gannushkina and Starovoytova.

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