Several lawyers representing radical opposition activists who seized a police station in Yerevan last year again refused on Wednesday to undergo security checks in the high-profile trial of their clients.
They have been required to walk through metal detectors before entering courtrooms ever since the start of the trial in June. The lawyers say this procedure amounts to a search not allowed by Armenian law.
Many of them have repeatedly refused to comply with it and been barred from attending court hearings as a result. They have accused the authorities of deliberately subjecting them to such checks to ensure that the trials continue in the absence of defendants and their attorneys.
Armenia’s Judicial Department insists that the security “inspections” do not constitute searches and are therefore legal. It only agreed last month to somewhat change the controversial procedure at the request of Ara Zohrabian, the chairman of the Chamber of Advocates, the national bar association.
Zohrabian defended the security checks when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Tuesday. He said judicial authorities have legitimate concerns about a possible transfer of weapons from defense lawyers to jailed opposition gunmen standing two separate trials.
“Ara Zohrabian is executing the authorities’ orders and doing everything to ensure that the lawyers’ rights are once again violated,” charged Lusine Sahakian, one of the attorneys who rejected on Wednesday court guards’ order to show objects kept in her bag. They remained adamant even after she told them that it is empty.
Several other lawyers chose to enter the courtroom and attend the latest court hearing without their bags.
Meanwhile, the presiding judge, Artush Gabrielian, decided to take yet another disciplinary action against Sahakian and another attorney, Mushegh Shushanian, for their absence from the courtroom.
Gabrielian and the judge in the other trial have also frequently clashed with most of the 32 defendants facing grave accusations. The rows have kept both trials effectively paralyzed.