The prosecutor in the trial of former Nagorno-Karabakh army commander Samvel Babayan and others has demanded that the retired army general linked to an opposition group in Armenia be convicted of arms smuggling and money laundering and sentenced to 7 years in prison.
In his indictment speech the prosecutor, Aram Aramian, claimed that the evidence presented during the court proceedings proved Babayan’s guilt on both counts.
Babayan, who served as Nagorno-Karabakh’s top military commander from 1993 to 1999, was arrested after Armenia’s National Security Service claimed to have confiscated a surface-to-air Igla system, saying that Babayan was allegedly behind its acquisition. The arrest in March came about two weeks before Armenia’s parliamentary elections in which Babayan was unofficially affiliated with the ORO alliance led by Armenia’s former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and two other opposition politicians. ORO condemned the criminal case as politically motivated.
Babayan, his comrade-in-arms Sanasar Gabrielian, and five other men went on trial in July. The once powerful general has repeatedly denied prosecutors’ claims that he promised other suspects to pay $50,000 for the delivery of the weapon.
Gabrielian, who initially denied any connection with the weapon, last month admitted that it was he who commissioned the confiscated Igla. He claimed that he wanted to donate the launcher along with its shoulder-fired rockets to Nagorno-Karabakh’s army and insisted that Babayan was not involved in that in any way. Babayan, for his part, said he warned Gabrielian that the Igla acquisition was illegal.
Another defendant, Armen Poghosian, who suggested in his pre-trial testimony that Babayan was most probably the one who ordered the weapon, renounced that claim later in the courtroom.
Prosecutor Aramian said that despite defendant Gabrielian’s claim that Babayan told him that the rocket launcher lacked some components and was therefore not usable in its current form, an examination of the confiscated Igla by forensic experts showed that the weapon designed to shoot down planes and helicopters could be used for its purpose. “The weapon was suitable for combat application and even the slightest violation of its keeping and transportation rules could result in an explosion,” he said.
Babayan’s lawyer Avetis Kalashian said his client still did not admit his guilt and still considered that the weapon presented in the courtroom was not usable in its current form.
The lawyer is expected to deliver his speech next Monday.