A prominent nationalist activist who led a violent anti-government demonstration in Yerevan last November claimed to be persecuted for political reasons on Wednesday as he stood trial along with 13 other men kept in detention.
Shant Harutiunian urged them not to defend themselves at what he described as a sham trial ordered by the Armenian government and Russian special services. He said they should continue their “political struggle” in the court instead.
The defendants stand accused of violent disruption of public order and resistance to police, a crime punishable by between 4 and 7 years in prison. They were among several dozen protesters who tried to march towards the presidential palace in Yerevan in what Harutiunian called an anti-government “revolution.” Riot police used force to stop the crowd armed with sticks and homemade stun grenades.
Harutiunian’s 15-year-old son Shahen was charged in the case but not arrested in April. He too went on trial on June 12.
Harutiunian claimed that Russia’s FSB security service has tried to have him imprisoned for the past five years. “You are all Russian puppets,” he told the judge in the case, Mnatsakan Martirosian, drawing cheers from friends present in the courtroom.
“I propose that Russian representatives take over this trial because this process is in their interests,” said another defendant, Alek Poghosian.
Harutiunian reacted furiously after a lawyer representing another defendant, Tigran Petrosian, began making purely legal arguments in support of his client. “Do you want to covertly admit that they are rightly accusing us of hooliganism but that you are not a hooligan?” he told Petrosian. “You ensure a political process and I will ensure a judicial one,” replied the latter.