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Another Opposition Trial Witness Claims Police Torture


Armenia -- Riot police confront opposition protesters in Yerevan on March 1, 2008.

Yet another witness in the ongoing trials of prominent Armenian opposition figures claimed on Tuesday to have been forced by police to support the official theory of last year’s post-election violence in Yerevan.

Henrik Artenian, a resident of the town of Ashtarak, was among witnesses who signed testimonies saying that Miasnik Malkhasian, one of the arrested oppositionists, organized and led opposition protesters that clashed with security forces on March 1, 2008.

Artenian retracted the pre-trial testimony in a Yerevan court, saying that it was extracted after he was beaten and detained by the police. “An investigator told me, ‘If you want to stay alive you must write what we will tell you,’” he told the court. “And so I signed that testimony out of fear.”

“Mr. Malkhasian, forgive me,” Artenian said, turning to the defendant. “I apologize for your being in this situation today and enduring torture,” responded Malkhasian.

Artenian claimed that the Ashtarak police have been harassing him and his family members to ensure that he stands by his signed claims during the trial. “The police chief twice summoned me and said that I should reaffirm my testimony,” he said. “I said no. I said I will tell the truth.”

Similar retractions have also been made by several other witnesses in the continuing trials of Malkhasian and five other oppositionists accused of organizing the March 2008 “mass disorders” that left ten people dead. Three of them did so on Monday.

In contrast, two other witnesses on Tuesday reaffirmed their incriminating testimony given against one of those oppositionists, Grigor Voskerchian. The court hearing was held behind the closed doors.

The defendants facing separate trials are among more than 50 supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian remaining in prison. The Armenian opposition and human rights groups view them as political prisoners, a characterization rejected by the authorities.
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