By Astghik Bedevian
Legal representatives of Karabakh war veterans charged with plotting a coup claim their clients should have been released from pre-trial detention after its term legally expired early this week.
Zhirayr Sefilian and Vartan Malkhasian were arrested and charged with calling for a “violent overthrow” of government in early December. A lower court had set the term for their pre-trial detention until June 10.
Now Vahe Grigorian and Mushegh Shushanian claim their clients have been kept in custody since then illegally as the term of their arrest has not been prolonged by court.
They criticized the legal practice of Armenian law-enforcers and claimed their actions contradict the European Convention on Human Rights and the national legislation.
“It turns out that people are, in fact, kept in custody without any court sanction,” Grigorian said. “Similar situations have become a tradition in Armenia’s penitentiaries and Armenian courts do not pay any attention to this circumstance.”
The two lawyers have sent letters to Armenia’s prosecutor-general and justice minister pointing out the procedural violations.
Spokesperson for the Prosecutor-General’s Office Sona Truzian told RFE/RL that they do not see anything unlawful in the actions of the law-enforcers as they were guided by the provision of the code of criminal procedure according to which the term of pre-trial detention ends upon the judge’s accepting the case for proceedings.
No one at the Ministry of Justice could provide clear explanations over the lawyers’ assertions.
A Yerevan lower court on Friday confirmed that prosecutors had submitted the cases of Sefilian and Malkhasian within the time stipulated by law.
Mnatsakan Petrosian will be the judge in the proceedings. It is yet unknown when the proceedings will begin. Information on this regard is expected to be announced early next week.
The prosecution, meanwhile, has subpoenaed 30 witnesses to be involved in the trial of Sefilian, who is also charged with an illegal possession of arms.
According to Sefilian’s lawyer, this shows the prosecutors’ desire to protract the trial as the process can do without so many witnesses. “The National Security Service has the video and audio records of the meeting during which Sefilian allegedly made calls for overthrowing the government,” Grigorian explained.