By Astghik Bedevian
The seven opposition figures accused of orchestrating Armenia’s post-election unrest continued to defy the court on Friday, forcing yet another delay of their high-profile trial.
One of them, parliament Hakob Hakobian, was unable to attend the latest court hearing because of his deteriorated health condition. The hearing lasted for less than three minutes as the six other defendants again refused to stand up and greet the judge in the case, Mnatsakan Martirosian, in protest against what they see as politically motivated accusations.
In what has become a pattern, Martirosian construed this behavior as contempt of court and ordered that they be removed the courtroom before adjourning the trial until February 12.
The seven oppositionists, among them two other parliamentarians and a former foreign minister, were charged under articles 225 and 200 of Armenia’s Criminal Code that deal with provocation of “mass disturbances” and attempts to “usurp state power.”
The Armenian authorities have pledged to amend these articles, a move that spared them embarrassing sanctions by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on Tuesday. The PACE has for months been pressing for the release of dozens of opposition supporters arrested following the February 200 presidential election.
The authorities are understood to have assured Council of Europe officials that the planned amendments will be retroactively applied to the seven oppositionists in a way that could result in their release from jail. They have rejected PACE calls for a general amnesty for all jailed loyalists of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian.
In a report released this week, the PACE’s two Armenia rapporteurs, John Prescott and Georges Colombier, said they urged President Serzh Sarkisian to declare such amnesty during their recent visit to Yerevan. “The President indicated that he did not rule out the possibility of a declaration of amnesty at a later stage,” said the report. “However, he made clear that any consideration of such a possibility could only take place when the court proceedings had been finalized or, at least, were well underway, and taking into account the arguments presented by both the prosecution and defense in court.”
(Photolur photo: Opposition supporters protest against the trial outside the court.)