Judge Finds Charges Baseless as Final Stae of “31 Trial” Begins

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan–Yerevan News Agency)–The Armenian Supreme Court convened Thursday with presiding judge Davit Avetissian reading the final verdict on the almost two-year-old "Trial of 31," during which he announced that the original charges of treason and forcible overthrow of the government were baseless.

With this ruling the judge charged that 13 defendants were allegedly responsible for advocating or articulating–the forceful change of leadership (Article 65 section 2 and article 65 [introduction])–while seven defendants were charged with Article 84 of the criminal code–knowing and not reporting a crime.

Thus Armenian Revolutionary Federation Executive Council of Armenia member Vahan Hovanessian and co-defendants Manuel Yeghiazarian–Ashot Avetissian–Tigran Vartkessi Avetissian–Tigran Mheri Avetissian–Gagik Karapetian–Artur Ghazarian–Armen Rostamian–Karen Hazarapeti Karapetian–Sasha Khatchatrian–Arsen Yeritsian and Serozhya Hovannisian were all charged with article 65 section 2 and article 65 (introduction)–bearing a sentence of three months to seven years in prison.

Co-defendants Gnel Hovannesian–Souren Sahakian–Nairi Manoukian–Harutiun Sargsyan–Vagif Avetissian–Antranik Hambartsumian and Arkady Sardarian were charged with article 84.

Co-defendant Martin Karapetian was found not-guilty–while defendant Vatchakan Kasoyan was found not guilty of article 84–due to lack of evidence. For charges of illegally bearing firearms (article 232)–Kasoyan’s case was deferred for further investigation due to insufficient evidence.

The judge read evidence which implicated defendants with illegally bearing firearms.

He–however–concluded that they were bearing arms in self-defense and not aimed at overthrowing the government–saying that the defendants were concerned after being fired upon during an opposition rally on June 21–1995 where the pro-government "Yerkrapah" militia opened fire on demonstrators at Liberty Square.

Co-defendants Gagik Assikian and Gevork Ghazarian were charged with Article 17-232–harboring illegal firearms and weapons.

Outside the courtroom–demonstrators called for a fair verdict and freedom to all incarcerated freedom fighters.

The session is scheduled to continue Friday–when the final ruling on the trial is expected.

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