Aragast Cafe Murder Trial Begins at Local Court

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan and Armenpress)–The trial for the murder of a Georgian citizen of Armenian origin Poghos Poghossian at the "Aragast" cafe began at the Court of the first instance of the Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan.

According to the indictment–Poghossian was intoxicated when he insulted President Robert Kocharian at the cafe on September 25–2001. The president’s bodyguards Gurgen Arsenian and Aghamal Harutiunian attacked him and Poghossian fell flat on his back–and was seriously injured and later died.

The only defendant in the case–Aghamal Harutiunian did not plead guilty. Under a court order to further study the evidence–he will testify after all the other witnesses are interrogated. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The first witness that was interrogated was licensed architect Stepan Nalbandian who was with Poghossian at the cafe the night of the murder. Nalbandian was Poghossian’s friend and business partner for six months. The two built a school in Javakhk (Samtskhe-Javakhk region of Georgia). According to Nalbandian–when Poghossian who was already drunk saw Charles Aznavour–Robert Kocharian and his bodyguards passing by he called out "Hello Robik." A bodyguard yelled back and said "Shut up–bastard." In 10-15 minutes–a young man came up to their table and politely asked Poghossian to follow him to the restroom. The witness claimed to have seen Poghossian being pushed into the restroom. And when he entered–the bodyguard punched him. Several other people–together with Nalbandian–tried to interfere to help Poghossian. When the crowd disbursed–Nalbandian rushed to Poghossian lying on his back on the floor. When the doctor arrived at the scene of the crime–he was critically injured and could do nothing to help–and certified his death. The evening grew more chaotic when a foreigner shouted–"We are listening to jazz and here they are killing a man." The witness stated that they were drunk but could control themselves.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation–of which Poghos Poghossian was a member of–claimed that prosecutors failed to identify all perpetrators of the crime.

"The fact that only one person is going to stand trial proves the investigation is flawed," ARF spokesman Gegham Manukiansaid. "Not all circumstances have been properly examined–and not all individuals involved in the incident have been identified."

Prosecutors concluded that Poghossian–died accidentally in a fight with one of Kocharian’s bodyguards–Harutunian. However–the victim’s relatives and a few human rights organizations–including the New York-based Human Rights Watch–say that he was beaten to death by several presidential guards.

The court session will continue tomorrow. The representative of the victim’s legal successor Ruben Sahakian requested the hearing be postponed to January 8–giving Andranik Poghossian–the victim’s lawyer enough time to prepare questions for the witnesses.

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