The two arrested leaders of an armed opposition group that seized an Armenian police station in 2016 will testify at the ongoing trial of Zhirayr Sefilian, their prominent comrade prosecuted separately, a court in Yerevan said on Friday.
Sefilian, who is the top leader of the Founding Parliament radical opposition movement, was arrested in June 2016 on charges of plotting an armed revolt against the government. He also stands accused of planning to organize “mass disturbances” in Yerevan during the April 2015 official commemorations of the centenary of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.
Sefilian denies the charges as politically motivated. He and several other men went on trial last May.
Sefilian was taken into custody less than a month before three dozen members and supporters of Founding Parliament seized a police compound in Yerevan’s Erebuni district to demand his release and President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation. The gunmen led by Varuzhan Avetisian and Pavlik Manukian laid down their weapons after a two-week standoff with security forces which left three police officers dead. They are standing three separate trials.
Sefilian’s lawyers petitioned a district court in Yerevan to summon Avetisian and Manukian for questioning at his trial. The presiding judge, Tatevik Grigorian, granted the request, saying that the two men could shed more light on the riots that were allegedly planned by Sefilian.
Grigorian ruled that they will be questioned as witnesses at the next court hearing. According to the prosecutors, Avetisian and Manukian were aware of Sefilian’s alleged preparations for the street violence.
It is not clear whether Sefilian will be able to put questions to his comrades. The Lebanese-born oppositionist has been frequently expelled from the courtroom for contempt of court. The judge twice refused to allow him to attend Friday’s hearing.