October 27 Trial Begins
YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan). On February 15–the court of the first instance of Yerevan’s Kentron and Nork-Marash communities with Judge Samvel Uzunian in the chair began to hear the October 27–1999 parliamentary killings case. Defendant Misak Mkrtchian failed to appear in the court-room for reasons unknown to the court.
Nairi Hunanian–the principal defendant in the case–said he had refused to accept the bill of indictment because the investigator rather than the prosecutor wanted to hand the indictment to him–which runs counter to the requiremen’s of the Code of Criminal Procedure. However–the prosecution said this requirement is not imperative–therefore Nairi Hunanian’s refusal to take the bill of indictment is groundless. The court decided the bill of indictment will be handed to Hunanian on February 16 so that he can study the content of the document.
Nairi Hunanian also protested against violations committed during the preliminary investigation–in which–Hunanian said–prosecutor Hakob Martirossian played a role. The court rejected the motion as groundless.
The court also declined the petition of another defendant in the case–Armen Gasparian (policeman of the regiment of guards of the Interior Ministry) requesting he be separated from the general proceedings. According to the court–the charge brought against him is connected with the case and his being at large may obstruct the trial. Gasparian said he would go on hunger-strike before the beginning of the next meeting of the court. He and another defendant–Interior Ministry official Avetik Minassian–who are charged with criminal neglect–expressed their dissatisfaction with the fact that they are kept in the same cage with the person who had pointed a sub-machine gun at them–and demanded that they should be kept apart.
Nairi Hunanian has decided to do without a lawyer. Five other defendants also refused to avail themselves of legal services. Defendant Edik Grigorian said that it would be decided in a week’s time who was going to defend him.
Defendants Nairi and Karen Hunanian–Edik Grigorian and Derenik Bejanian are charged on seven articles of the RA Criminal Code. Four of these articles are as follows: high treason–act of terrorism–attempted act of terrorism–organized activity aimed at committing an especially dangerous state crime. The defendants face 10-15-year imprisonment–death penalty–confiscation of property. Vram Galstian–Ashot Knyazian and Hamlet Stepanian are also charged with high treason–act of terrorism–attempted act of terrorism (plus an additional three articles.) They too face capital punishment. All seven are also charged with deliberate destruction or damage of property–hostage-taking–unlawful purchase and possession of firearms and ammunition. Armen Gasparian and Avetik Minassian–who worked for the Interior Ministry–are charged with neglect of official duties; Sargis Yetimian–Sashik Ghlechian and Misak Mkrtchian are charged with unlawful possession of firearms. In all five cases the sentence stipulated by the Criminal Code is up to 5 years in prison.
The court will establish the reasons why defendant Misak Mkrtchian was absent from the first court sitting and will make sure he attends the next sitting. Nairi Hunanian will have a week to study the bill of indictment and Edik Grigorian will settle issues with his lawyer.
There will be some restrictions regarding the coverage of the trial since it is a high-profile case. Justice Minister David Haroutiunian made it known to reporters the publication of testimony will be prohibited. Only information about this testimony must be provided.
The minister said that all organizational matters connected with the holding of the trial–especially those pertaining to security–have been settled. All representatives of mass media will be allowed in the court room. The trial will also be covered by the international press–including BBC–CNN–France Presse and Reuters.