Two young activists who were arrested during a recent opposition protest in Yerevan went on trial Wednesday on charges which they and their supporters consider politically motivated.
Davit Kiramijian and Sargis Gevorgian were among at least 15 people detained on May 31 in Yerevan in clashes between riot police and several dozen supporters of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). The police used force to keep the oppositionists from entering the city’s newly renovated Liberty Square, the main venue for political gatherings held in Armenia since the late 1980s.
All detainees except Kiramijian, Gevorgian and his sister Ani, a journalist with the pro-opposition “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, were released later that day. The Gevorgians were set free pending investigation three days later, while Kiramijian was remanded in two-month pre-trial detention. A Yerevan court unexpectedly ordered the 19-year-old university student’s release earlier this month.
Faced with an uproar from local media groups, the police decided not to press charges against Ani Gevorgian. But they charged her brother with “shoving” a police officer and tearing off one of his epaulettes in an attempt to impede Kiramijian’s arrest.
Kiramijian, for his part, stands accused of “hooliganism.” The police claim that he verbally abused and beat up a passerby together with several other HAK activists. It is not clear why none of them was prosecuted.
Both HAK activists pleaded not guilty to the accusations at the start of their trial. Their defense lawyer, Melania Arustamian, said the case was “fabricated” for political purposes.
“There is no evidence to substantiate the accusations,” Arustamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “We will be fighting for their acquittal.”
The trial began with Arustamian demanding the replacement of Mnatsakan Martirosian, the presiding judge. “Judge Martirosian is interested in a particular outcome of the case and is partial,” she said, describing as “illegal” his decision hold the trial in the first place.
Martirosian, who has handed down highly controversial guilty verdicts in the high-profile trials of HAK figures arrested following the February 2008 presidential election, rejected the demand. The trial will continue on July 26.