The main trial of a Russian soldier accused of murdering an Armenian family of seven resumed in Gyumri on Monday amid more protests from relatives of the victims.
They and their lawyers continued to demand that court hearings be held in an Armenian court house, rather than the local headquarters of the Russian military base in Armenia. They say that such an unusual arrangement runs counter to Armenian law.
Artur Sakunts, a member of the legal team, also said that the defendant, Valery Permyakov, will be constrained not to tell the truth about the January 2015 killings if he remains in Russian military custody and if the trial continues at the same venue.
Although Permyakov said that he does not mind standing trial in an Armenian courtroom, the presiding judge, Harutiunian Movsisian, again refused to change the venue of the trial. Movsisian said that the improvised courtroom at the Russian base has all necessary conditions for a comprehensive and objective judicial process.
The judge cited security considerations when the trial got underway at the Russian base on December 18. Permyakov was guarded by not only Armenian security officials but also Russian servicemen when he sat in an enclosed glass dock during the first court session. The presence of the Russian military personnel prompted protests from representatives of the relatives of the murdered Avetisian family.
A handcuffed Permyakov was escorted only by Armenian guards when he entered the courtroom on Monday. His Armenian lawyer protested against the handcuffs. The judge agreed to have them removed.
Permyakov, was arrested near the Turkish border early on January 13, 2015, hours after six members of the Avetisian family were found shot dead in their home in Gyumri. The family’s seventh member, a 6-month-old baby boy, died of his stab injuries a week later.
Permyakov admitted murdering them during his separate interrogations by Russian and Armenian investigators. The latter maintain that he acted alone.
A Russian military court sentenced Permyakov to 10 years in prison for desertion and theft of firearms and ammunition in a short trial held in Gyumri in August.