An Iranian citizen being tried in Armenia on charges of spying for Azerbaijan collapsed at a court hearing in Yerevan when he was delivering his defense speech on Thursday.
Behnam Bagheri’s Armenian defense attorney Inesa Petrosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service the same day that during the hearing held behind closed doors her client grew very nervous after the prosecution’s continuous attempts to meddle in his testimony and eventually fainted “with symptoms of an apoplectic stroke”.
“He had prepared a speech in Persian,” she said. “When he began to read it out, the prosecutor unreasonably began to meddle in that process, and Bagheri lost himself. He tore the sheets of paper with his speech into pieces and tried to leave in protest. When he was turned away he was in a very difficult condition, about to lose consciousness.”
Petrosian said Bagheri was taken to a hospital in Yerevan and remained unconscious as of the evening of August 19. She said his family in Iran has been notified and is coming to Yerevan.
Bagheri, 30, was arrested by Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) late last year on charges of spying for Azerbaijan.
The prosecutor is demanding an 11-year prison sentence for Bagheri.
Armenian officials say that in September 2009 Bagheri received a video from retired Armenian Lieutenant Colonel Gevorg Hayrapetian that contained “anti-Armenian propaganda that could be used to discredit Armenia’s international prestige.”
The disc was found when Bagheri was crossing the Armenian border into Iran.
Hayrapetian, who fought in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, is charged with high treason and faces up to 13 years in prison. Both Bagheri and Hayrapetian deny the charges.