Babayan Trial Unfair in Key Suspect’s Absence Lawyers Say

STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL–Noyan Tapan)–The trial of General Samvel Babayan and 14 other men accused of plotting to kill Nagorno-Karabakh President Arakdy Ghoukassian must not continue in the absence of another key suspect–defense attorneys said Tuesday on the second day of court proceedings in Stepanakert.

The lawyers said in a petition to the judge that the trial can not be fair without the participation of Sasun Aghajanian–Babayan’s former chief bodyguard who prosecutors say opened fire on Ghoukassian’s limousine on March 22. Karabakh law-enforcement authorities say Aghajanian is suffering from a serious mental illness and is undergoing treatment in a psychiatric clinic in Yerevan.

But according to the lawyers–there has been no official information about the suspect’s health condition.

The petition was turned down by judge Suren Aleksanian who agreed with prosecutors’ argument that Aghajanian’s absence will not affect the trial. The prosecution is due to read the indictment on Wednesday.

Meanwhile–the Noyan Tapan news agency reported that it has received contradictory information on the restrictions to the presence of mass media representatives in the court-room.

Sources in Stepanakert say that some representatives of the privately-owned mass media were not allowed into the court-room. The sources quote one of the officers of the task group as saying to journalists–"Your issue has already been settled."

To substantiate this information the aforementioned sources refer to the statement made by the principal defendant–the former commander of the Karabakh Defense Army–Lieutenant-General Samvel Babayan on the first day of the trial. According to Babayan–he will have to make public a number of state secrets during the trial.

Meanwhile–the Noyan Tapan agency received a press release of from the Information and Analytical Center–Karabakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs–wherein it is stated that "the trial is open and there are no restrictions to mass media representatives."

Previously–Karabakh Prosecutor General Mavrik Ghoukassian stated: "The trial will be open. Access to the court-room will be restricted for technical reasons–but the public will regularly be informed of the course of the trial."

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