A close associate of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian and another opposition activist went on a new trial on Wednesday just one week after prosecutors dropped controversial coup charges leveled against them.
Former Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzumanian, Suren Sirunian were among seven arrested opposition figures accused of plotting a “usurpation of state authority by force” and provoking the March 1, 2008 clashes in Yerevan for that purpose. A Yerevan court cut short their collective trial on April 1 after prosecutors dropped the coup charges, citing recent amendments to Armenia’s Criminal Code.
The judge in the case, Mnatsakan Martirosian, said they must be tried separately by various courts for allegedly organizing the clashes that left ten people dead and more than 200 others injured. He said he will preside over the new trial of Arzumanian and Sirunian.
The first court hearing began with Martirosian rejecting defense lawyers’ demands to throw out the case against their clients for lack of evidence. He also refused to grant bail to either oppositionist, saying that they might go into hiding or obstruct judicial proceedings if set free.
“The guarantee that I wouldn’t go into hiding is my name, my biography,” retorted Arzumanian. “I myself am the guarantee. I am one of those who found this state. I have nowhere to go.”
Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) regards the new twist in the so-called “case of the seven” as a massive blow to the official theory of the worst street violence in the country’s history. The Armenian authorities have said all along that the clashes between security forces and opposition protesters that barricaded themselves in central Yerevan were the result of an opposition plot to seize power following the February 2008 presidential election. Ter-Petrosian and his associates strongly deny the claims and blame the authorities for the deaths of eight civilians and two police servicemen in the unrest.