Armenia’s Court of Appeals on Friday refused to release Samvel Babayan, an opposition figure arrested last month, pending an investigation into an alleged smuggling of weapons.
A panel of its judges upheld a lower court’s ruling on the pre-trial arrest despite Babayan’s assurances that he will not flee the country if set free.
His lawyer, Avetis Kalashian, questioned the fairness of the court decisions, insisting that his client is innocent. He said he will now appeal to the higher Court of Cassation.
Kalashian again declined to describe the high-profile case as politically motivated. “As I have said before, the course of the investigation will show whether or not there are political motives,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenia service (Azatutyun.am).
Babayan was arrested on March 21 hours after Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) claimed to have confiscated a Russian-made surface-to-air rocket system. The NSS alleged afterwards that the retired army general, who was Nagorno-Karabakh’s top military commander from 1993-1993, paid two other men to smuggle the weapon from Georgia. Babayan denies the accusation.
The arrest came about two weeks before Armenia’s parliamentary elections. Babayan is unofficially affiliated with the opposition ORO alliance led by former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and two other opposition politicians. ORO condemned the criminal case as politically motivated.