By Karine Kalantarian
A jailed opposition leader refused to stand up and show respect for Armenia’s Court of Appeals on Wednesday as it opened hearings on his appeal against a two-year prison sentence given to him by a lower court.
In doing that, Smbat Ayvazian of the opposition Hanrapetutyun (Republic) followed the example of seven other prominent opposition figures who went on what they consider a sham trial last December. The trial has been effectively paralyzed since then.
The seven loyalists of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, among them three members of parliament, stand accused of plotting to “usurp state power” and provoking the March 1, 2008 riots in Yerevan for that purpose.
Ayvazian, whose party also strongly backs Ter-Petrosian, was arrested on February 24 and subsequently charged with illegally possessing a truncheon and resisting police officers. A Yerevan court found him guilty of these accusations in November. The former minister for tax collection appealed against the ruling.
“I don’t respect the court because there is no justice here,” Ayvazian said on Wednesday, explaining his decision not to stand up for a panel of three Court of Appeals judges considering the case.
“You don’t need to examine anything because you are going to do what you will be told from above,” he told them. “So you can execute the order given to you right now. I have no problem with that.”
The judges construed his behavior as a “disrespectful attitude to the court” and adjourned the trial until next Monday. “I’ll do the same at the next session,” shouted Ayvazian.
When asked by he appealed to the court in the first place, Ayvazian said he wants to formally exhaust all possibilities of legal action in Armenia. His lawyer, Lusine Sahakian, confirmed that he plans to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Ayvazian is among about 60 Ter-Petrosian supporters who were arrested in the wake of the February 2008 presidential election and remain in jail on controversial charges. A key committee of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) described them as “political prisoners” last month to the dismay of the Armenian government. The latter denies that the criminal cases against the oppositionists are politically motivated.