A court in Yerevan on Tuesday again refused to release Manvel Grigorian, a retired Armenian army general facing a string of criminal charges, from prison on bail.
Grigorian’s lawyers argued that the 63-year-old’s health has sharply deteriorated since he was arrested in June 2018. Nevertheless, the presiding judge, Mnatsakan Martirosian, rejected their request to free him pending the outcome of his trial.
Grigorian, who suffers from multiple diseases, has been held in a Yerevan hospital since February. The hospital administration notified the court this week that he remains too frail to attend sessions of his high-profile trial.
Grigorian’s lawyers have repeatedly demanded their client’s release from custody on health grounds. Both the court and prosecutors have rejected those demands.
The court recently agreed to the formation of an interagency commission of medics tasked with thoroughly examining the defendant’s health condition. On Tuesday, it accepted the defense lawyers’ request to also appoint a French-Armenian physician, who had for years treated the once powerful general, to the commission. A trial prosecutor objected to the appointment, saying that the doctor, Norbert Avetian, has grown too connected to Grigorian to make impartial decisions.
Grigorian stands accused of illegal arms possession, embezzlement, extortion and tax evasion. Some of these charges have also been brought against his wife, Nazik Amirian. The couple continued to deny any wrongdoing when it went on trial in May.
Grigorian was arrested following searches conducted at his properties in and around the town of Echmiadzin. Investigators found there many weapons, ammunition, medication and field rations for soldiers provided by the Armenian Defense Ministry.
They also discovered canned food and several vehicles donated by Armenians at one of Grigorian’s mansions. An official video of the searches conducted by the National Security Service (NSS) caused shock and indignation in the country.
Among those shocked by the video was Seyran Saroyan, another retired general and a longtime friend of Grigorian’s. However, Saroyan on Tuesday cast doubt on the accusations, implying that the items found in Grigorian’s villa were not necessarily misappropriated by the latter.
“Everything will be cleared up,” he told a news conference held in the garden of his villa also located in Echmiadzin.
Asked whether he now thinks Grigorian could be acquitted, Saroyan said: “I don’t know what’s on the judge’s mind. We did the Velvet Revolution to have justice.”
Saroyan, who had been elected to Armenia’s former parliament on the former ruling Republican Party’s ticket, also praised Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s track record in office. He said that Pashinian is “establishing law and order” in Armenia.