Tuesday, 22 October

The Judge Shows No Sign of Impartiality

The NSS has distorted the facts

The trial of Zhirayr Sefilyan, Vardan Malkhasyan and Vahan Aroyan, which had begun on July 2, was resumed on July 11 at the Court of First Instance of the Kentron and Nork-Marash districts ofYerevan. After Judge Mnatsakan Martirosyan had rejected numerous challenges submitted by the defense attorneys and after several statements had been made, the court proceedings finally entered the main examination phase.

Before the examination began, prosecutor Artur Mkrtchyan presented the indictment. He mentioned the parts of the statements made by Vardan Malkhasyan and Zhirayr Sefilyan during the first gathering of the Hay Kamavorakanneri Hamakhumb (Assembly of Armenian Volunteers) that the NSS found to be punishable under Article 301 of theRepublic ofArmenia Criminal Code, “Public calls for the overthrow of the constitutional order.” Sefilyan is also charged with violating first section of Article 235 of the Criminal Code for illegal acquisition and holding of weapons and ammunition.

Sefilyan's Karabakh war comrade and resident of thevillageofLusarat Vahan Aroyanis also charged with violating the first section of Article 235; the NSS discovered a large quantity of weapons and ammunition at his house.

Next, the order for presenting evidence was determined. However, both before and after this step, Sefilyan's lawyers urged the court to hear their petition regarding the release of Sefilyan from arrest. This petition had been presented during the previous court session but had not been considered at that time because it was to be reviewed during the examination phase. Judge Martirosyan promised to hear the petition after the questioning of the defendants.

Sefilyan, who was to be questioned first, pled not guilty to the charges against him, which he described as absurd. As he has done previously, he refused to give testimony and instead chose to exercise his right to make a statement.

In his statement, he noted that two days after his arrest a friend of his appealed to President Kocharyan for an explanation. According to Sefilyan, Kocharyan answered, “We will hold him in an isolation cell until the elections. This is a decision at the highest political level.” In response to an inquiry by another person he responded, “There is nothing else in their activity; we simply have information that they are planning some type of show of force after the elections.” Sefilyan believes that this is the single implication that people were arrested based on. When asked by someone else why Zhirayr was being held under arrest, Kocharyan answered, “I will first put him on trial and then exile him.”

In the view of the freedom fighter, Kocharyan essentially considers himself to be not only president, but also omnipotent judge and prosecutor. In July, someone asked Kocharyan's staff what would happen with this case in the end. The response from Kocharyan was: “It appears that he feels quite comfortable in his cell, releasing statements in the middle of the day. In that case, perhaps we should keep him until the presidential elections.”

Sefilyan then made comparisons between the former and the current leadership. The former Dashnak, who until today does not accept the ANM (Armenian National Movement), nonetheless considers that in 1991, unlike today, we had a state organization and that despite the fact that from 1992 it began to collapse due to internal struggle, the “Levonyan”(Ter-Petrosyan) and the “Vazgenyan” (slain Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan) governments tried to thwart the collapse. In other words, there were sensible people in those governments who accepted their mistakes and had begun to think about their nation. According to Sefilyan, after the decisive collapse of October 27, 1999 (the Parliamentary shootings), and in 2003, when Kocharyan “appointed himself President, our statehood's stock was exhausted.” Sefilyan considers it senseless to talk about an independent judiciary in these circumstances. “If you, Mnatsakan Martirosyan, were an independent judge you would call a halt to this trial.” When the judge stated that the expression “Respected Court” must be used to address the court, Sefilyan responded that doing so is difficult for him. Sefilyan again refused to give testimony to a “false” court and declared that if the authorities hold them for seven years, they will not renounce their ideas or their goal, which is the creation of an ethicalArmenia.

ardan Malkhasyan also made a statement, but did not refuse to give testimony afterwards. He claimed that he attaches great importance to ensuring justice inArmenia, something they have always struggled for. “Political retribution in the true sense of the word is being executed against us; neither the letter nor the logic of the law is functioning,” declared Malkhasyan.

It should be noted that Malkhasyan, while pleading not guilty during pre-examination testimony, stated that during the December meeting when he made an impromptu speech, he had been under the influence of alcohol and had made careless statements, which he regretted. He asked that it be taken into account that he had no actual intentions to overthrow the authorities.

Vahan Aroyan stated that if the law prohibits possession of illegal weapons then he pleads guilty, but he also noted that in today's conditions an Armenian who resides in the border zone is obligated to carry arms to withstand potential threats. Moreover, it was repeatedly mentioned that Aroyan had close relations with border patrol commanders and often cooperated with them. Thus, today the well-known fact that he had arms and ammunition is now being used against him on the whim of the authorities.

After the statements of the defendants, Sefilyan's defense attorneys again presented a petition to release Sefilyan from custody; Malkhasyan's attorney Mushegh Shushanyan did the same. However after prosecutor Artur Mkrtchyan's objection, the judge decided to deal with the custody issues after the examination of the evidence. This is clear evidence of court's lack of impartiality. “The court does what the prosecutor tells it to,” declared defense attorney Ara Zakaryan. Vahe Grigoryan also reminded Judge Martirosyan that the defense has had experience in this matter and believes that in the future the court will again try to argue that their petition is ill timed. Essentially the court intends to examine the petition of the defense attorneys so late that there will no point to it. Such a measure should be taken before the court examination.

During the examination, the court presented video recordings of speeches and a number of documents. Malkhasyan's statement, “We must fight them with their own weapons,” was presented in the indictment as: “We must fight them only with weapons.” From here it is easy to come to the conclusion that the NSS either has problems with language and hearing or more likely a talent for distorting facts and “fabricating cases.”

The documents note that Sefilyan received his Makarov handgun as a service weapon in 1993 in accordance with Decree 0397 of the Armenian Defense Minister's and was obligated to turn it in at the end of hostilities. However Sefilyan and his attorneys insist that he received the weapon as a gift from the command of the NKR Defense Army.

According to the documents, the activists allegedly made their statements via mass media, and hold clear anti-government views. The defense attorneys qualified these notions and formulations as absurd and meaningless.

What is the judge waiting for?

On July 13, the examination of factual evidence resumed. The lawyers for the defendants simultaneously called to the attention of the court the omissions and the inaccuracies present in these documents.

Vardan Malkhasyan made a statement noting that on December 10, 2006 at 9:30PM his home was entered and searched by NSS agents. Being in a partially intoxicated state he nonetheless got involved in a scuffle between his son and the agents. After the search was completed he was taken to the NSS, and held there until 7-8 in the morning where he was forced to give testimony while in a non-sober state. Malkhasyan declared that he regrets making “weak” statements and from now on will approach the authorities even more critically.

After the evidence examination, Sefilyan's attorneys petitioned to declare inadmissible a number of documents that had been put together by NSS investigators who were not connected with the investigating team. Despite an objection by prosecutor Mkrtchyan, judge Martirosyan agreed that separate investigators had compiled the documents but postponed consideration of the attorneys' petition, as well as their petition to have the defendants released, until after the testimony of witnesses had been heard.

This development greatly surprised both the lawyers and those in attendance. Citing the law, attorney Zakaryan noted that the petition had nothing to do with the questioning of the witnesses, but the judge stood by his decision.

It is clear that judge Martirosyan is waiting for a decision from above. This is evident at nearly every step he makes. He has already postponed the consideration of three or four petitions until the numerous witnesses are interrogated.

This is undoubtedly done in order to gain time and to fulfill the wishes of the defendants' actual judges.

The questioning of the witnesses will begin on July 25.

Translated by Ruben Izmailyan

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