By Astghik BedevianThe three arrested opposition members of Armenia’s parliament accused of organizing the 2008 post-election clashes in Yerevan will appeal to the National Assembly on Thursday to demand evidence of their alleged crimes from prosecutors and discuss it at an urgent session.
In a joint letter to speaker Hovik Abrahamian, Sasun Mikaelian, Hakob Hakobian and Miasnik Malkhasian will demand that Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian be summoned to the assembly to substantiate the charges. According to Hovik Arsenian, an opposition lawyer, they also want to be allowed to attend the session.
The government-controlled parliament lifted the three lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution at Hovsepian’s urging just days after the March 1 deadly clashes between opposition protesters and security forces. They were charged with attempting to “usurp state authority” and provoke “mass disturbances.”
They as well as four other prominent supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian on a collective trial in mid-December.
Armen Martirosian, a leader of the opposition Zharangutyun party allied to Ter-Petrosian, backed his jailed colleagues’ demands on Wednesday. “Our political prisoner colleagues are right to write such a letter,” he told RFE/RL. “I think that the accusations are really baseless.”
“These seven persons have never been in the same room together [before the trial,]” said Arsenian. “Not all of them know each other personally.”
But Galust Sahakian, one of the leaders of the parliament’s pro-government majority, made clear that their appeal will be rejected. “The case is being heard by a court,” Sahakian said, adding that a parliament debate would constitute an undue interference in the judicial process.
The defendants believe, however, that the Yerevan court is controlled by the government and can not be objective. They have refused to stand up and show respect for the presiding judge in protest against what they see as a sham trial. The trial remains effectively deadlocked because of that.
Two senior representatives of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) discussed the fate of the seven oppositionists during their recent meetings in Yerevan with Prosecutor-General Hovsepian and other Armenian officials. “We have not received evidence that the seven opposition leaders organized violent actions with premeditation with the aim to usurp the state power,” they said in a subsequent report submitted to the Strasbourg-based assembly.
John Prescott and Georges Colombier noted at the same time that the defendants’ behavior in the courtroom is “clearly not conductive to the pursuit of the court proceedings.”
(Photolur photo: Malkhasian, left, and Hakobian pictured during the parliament session that gave the green light to their arrest.)