Babayan Trial Begins in Stepanakert

STEPANAKERT (Armenpress)–The trial of former Karabakh Army chief Samvel Babayan and others accused of plotting the March 22 assassination attempt against Nagorno-Karabakh Republic president Arkady Ghoukassian–began Monday at Stepanakert’s newly remodeled Supreme Court building.

The key defendant–Babayan–who is known as a national hero–was brought into the courtroom separately–while the other defendants were brought in as a group.

Babayan has been charged with masterminding and leading the group of assassins–while Sassoun Aghajanian–Levon Mirzoyan–Davit Ghoulian and Eric Karamazyan have been identified as the group that carried out the plot to kill the country’s president.

Aghajanian has been transported to a psychiatric facility in Armenia’s Norashen district.

Representing the prosecution at the trial were Karabakh prosecutor general Mavrik Ghoukassian and co-prosecutors Raisa Igoushkina and Vahram Avakian. The interests of the president were being defended by Karabakh parliament member and attorney Karen Babourian. [Readers will recall that Babourian replaced Georgi Petrossian as Karabakh’s parliament speaker–prior to the election of Robert Kocharian as president].

In accordance with Karabakh law–two judicial assistants–Seda Asryan and Ludmilla Sarkisian were also attending the trial presided over by Supreme Court justice Souren Aleksanian.

The first decision taken by the judge was to limit media coverage of the trial. Babayan defense attorney Judeks Shakaryan objected to the decision. His objection was overruled.

Lead defendant Babayan addressed the court–urging it to move the trial to the nearby Sunik court in Armenia. Shakaryan rationalized Babayan’s request by explaining that since most of the defendants are members of the armed forces–a military court should hear the case.

"Continuing the trial here is an affront to national and international laws," expressed Shakaryan–who was joined by other defense attorneys. Only eight of the 15 defendants have attorneys.

Lead prosecutor Ghoukassian reminded the court that a military court was in existence in Karabakh–but it no longer functions within the legal framework. However–citing the an article from Karabakh’s criminal code–Ghoukassian allowed for the appeal to be considered.

Following a 90-minute recess–the judicial assistants returned–rejecting Babayan’s appeal–thus prompting the lead defendant to express his no-confidence in the presiding judge. Per Karabakh law–a defendant is allowed to register his no-confidence vote in the judge and the prosecution.

The first day of the trial was adjourned following the judicial assistants’ ruling. The next session was scheduled for Tuesday.

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