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Armenian Police Tried For Excessive Force During Protests

YEREVAN -- Two Armenian police officers are on trial for using disproportionate force during the violent break-up of demonstrations staged by the opposition after the 2008 presidential election, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Andranik Manukian and Gegham Grigorian are accused of beating up two civilians in Yerevan's city center early on March 2, 2008.

The case, which began on November 10, is a rare example of law-enforcement officials prosecuted in connection with the deadly clashes on March 1-2, 2008, in Yerevan between opposition protesters and security forces.

If convicted of abuse of power they will face heavy fines, a ban from working as police, or a prison sentence of up to four years.

Both Manukian and Grigorian pleaded not guilty to the charge as they appeared before the court. Their lawyer, Vagharshak Gevorgian, accused the police of making his clients "scapegoats."

The court rejected Gevorgian's demands to drop the charges against the policemen. The opposition Armenian National Congress, whose leader Levon Ter-Petrosian spearheaded the 2008 street protests, has dismissed these criminal cases as a smokescreen for what it calls a high-level cover-up of the

It has repeatedly demanded the prosecution of former President Robert Kocharian and his top security officials who it said oversaw the suppression of the postelection rallies in Yerevan.