Government Ordered Verdict Announced

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The judicial board on criminal proceedings of the Supreme Court chaired by Judge David Avetissian pronounced a final verdict in connection with the "Trial of 31" Friday.

Defendant Tigran Vardkesi Avetissian was sentenced to death. The court considered him guilty on all counts (murder of two policemen–calls to overthrow the present leadership–organization of terrorist acts–activities aimed at committing heavy crimes–illegal acquisition and possession of arms and ammunition).

Representative of the Executive Council of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation of Armenia Vahan Hovanessian was recognized guilty on counts 65 part II and 67 and subcount 65 of the Criminal Law and sentenced to four years in prison (Hovanessian has been in custody since July 29 1995 and under the verdict will be released in 1999).

The commander of the Arapo detachment–defendant Manuel Yeghiazarian was recognized guilty on counts 67 and 65–subcount 65–subcount 207 part II and count 232 part I and sentenced to five years in prison.

Defendants Gagik Karapetian and Artur Kazarian were sentenced to 7 years in prison. Defendant Gnel Hovhanissian–Arsen Eghiazarian were sentenced to 6 years of imprisonment.

Defendants Ashot Avetissian and Karapet Kazarian were sentenced to 5 years in prison–while Sergey Hovhanissian and Ashot Khachatrian – to 4 years. Defendants Armen Rustamian and Tigram Mher Avetissian–Karen Karapetian–Martin Karapetian–Souren Sahakian–Arkady Sardarian were sentenced to three years in prison.

Defendants Andranik Hambartsumian–Gagik Gevorkian and Ofik Assikian were sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment. The sentence was postponed for three years. Defendants Gagik Assikian and Gevorg Kazarian were sentenced to one year in prison. The sentence was postponed for one year. Defendants Vagif Avetissian–Karen E.Karapetian and Armen Aghajanian were released on amnesty.

Defendants Haroutiun Sargssian–Nairi Manoukian and Gagik Vanian were sentenced to two years and four months in prison and released from the court-room as they have already served this prison term.

Judge Avetissian said that passing a final verdict the court took into consideration mitigating circumstances such as participation in the defense of Karabakh and Armenian borders.

While the verdict was pronounced–relatives of the defendants made remarks of protest–thus–voicing their disagreement with the sentences. The death sentence aroused much noise in the court-room. The defendants also joined their relatives and raised a banner of ARF with the slogan of "Liberty or Death" which was followed by outcries of freedom for the defendants and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.

According to defense attorneys the verdict will be protested. Attorney Tigran Janoyan said that the case with the murder of policemen’should be sent back for extra investigation.

"The Judge could have acquitted them–but did not do that," Janoyan said. Member of the Executive Council of ARF Gegham Manoukian said that the verdict once again proved that there was and would be no democracy in Armenia unless freedom-fighters like Hovanessian–Manvel Eghiazarian–Hrant Markarian are being kept in custody.

Defense attorneys have repeatedly charged that law enforcement officials used torture and psychological pressure to extract false testimony from their clients. Observers note that Hovanessian will complete his term right after the 1999 parliamentary elections.

Hovanessian’s attorney stated that the prosecution had not proven the charges. he said Hovanessian had simply his opinion by criticizing the ruling regime during private conversations.

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