Key Suspect Joins Karabakh Trial

STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–The man who Nagorno-Karabakh prosecutors say shot at the self-proclaimed republic’s president–Arkady Ghukasian–appeared before a Stepanakert court on Thursday after an official medical examination found him fit to stand trial.

Sasun Aghajanian–who was last August taken to a psychiatric clinic in Yerevan with mental problems–joined former Karabakh army commander Samvel Babayan and 14 other defendants accused of plotting to kill Ghukasian. The Karabakh leader was seriously wounded on March 22 when his limousine came under fire. The prosecutors maintain that the assassination bid was masterminded by Babayan–a charge he denies. However–several other defendants have already pleaded guilty to the charges.

Some of the defense lawyers claimed last month that the high-profile trial is not legitimate in the absence of Aghajanian. The former chief bodyguard of Babayan was brought back to Stepanakert after Yerevan doctors concluded that he is not mentally ill. The conclusion was upheld in the court by two local psychiatrists. The judge hearing the case then ruled that Aghajanian can be tried along with the other defendants. That decision was challenged by Aghajanian’s attorney and Babayan–who insisted that the suspect is insane.

In a related development–the trial began on Thursday of the ex-commander’s brother–former Stepanakert mayor Karen Babayan–on charges of abuse of power and illegal arms possession. The trial adjourned for 20 days shortly after its start. The two brothers were arrested in the wake of assault on Ghukasian

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