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Armenian War Vet Appeal Hearing Descends Into Chaos



Several dozen veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh war stormed into a court building in Yerevan on Thursday angered by the decision of the judge to hold a closed-door hearing of the appeal filed by their former companion-in-arms over his imprisonment.

Volodya Avetisian, a retired senior Armenian army officer, had led, for several months, public demonstrations by fellow war veterans, known as azatamartiks, demanding better social conditions and privileges from the government before being controversially arrested last month on suspicion of fraud.

The Defense Ministry’s Investigative Service said that Colonel Avetisian “embezzled” $2,000 from another man with a false promise to have his grandson exempted from compulsory military service. Avetisian has denied the accusation, with his friends insisting that with this prosecution the authorities simply attempt to stifle their movement.

The retired army officer later appealed the lower court decision that remanded him in prison without granting him bail.

The situation at the appeals court today turned chaotic after court officials failed to stop the vexed azatamartiks from entering the room. The turmoil continued for some time inside the courthouse before the war veterans finally left after the request from Avetisian’s attorney Ara Zakharian.

Avetisian’s supporters emphasized, however, that they wanted a ‘fair ruling’ from the court and would continue their struggle.

The judge adjourned the session, scheduling the next hearing for Monday.

Even if convicted on the charge brought against him, Avetisian is to walk free from the courtroom as the general amnesty act adopted by the Armenian parliament last week also applies to him.
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