An Armenian judge went on trial on Wednesday almost six month after being arrested and charged with bribery.
Ishkhan Barseghian pleaded not guilty as he appeared before a district court in Yerevan where he served for 20 years.
Barseghian was allegedly caught red-handed in October while being paid $1,000 by a citizen involved in a court case adjudicated by him. The day after his arrest, Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) circulated video purportedly showing him receiving the sum at an underground pass in Yerevan.
The trial prosecutor, Karen Bisharian, claimed that the judge, who was fired shortly after the arrest, demanded the kickback in return for handing down a favorable ruling.
Barseghian denied the accusation at the start of the trial. His lawyer accused the NSS of misleading the public by doctoring the video.
Citing Armenian law, the defendant also demanded that Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian personally present the indictment. The court rejected the demand.
Despite having undergone frequent structural changes over the past two decades, Armenia’s judicial system is still regarded by many people as corrupt and highly dependent on the government. Armenia’s former human rights ombudsman, Karen Andreasian, highlighted the problem in a 2013 report that accused judges, of routinely taking bribes.
The report based on confidential interviews with lawyers, judges and prosecutors singled out the Court of Cassation, the highest body of criminal justice in the country. Both the court and an Armenian government body monitoring the judiciary denied the allegations.