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Armenian Ombudsman Says Oppositionist Trials Flawed

"Let us see how the judge behaves at that trial and only then express opinions,” says Ombudsman Armen Harutiunian.
Armenian Ombudsman Armen Harutiunian has criticized the trials of dozens of supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrossian who were arrested following the country's March 1 postelection unrest.

In a press conference in Yerevan today, Harutiunian said his office has monitored many of those trials and found prosecutors had failed to come up with compelling evidence of their accusations.

Despite that, local courts always sided with prosecutors, he added.

Seven of the most prominent opposition detainees, including three parliamentary deputies and Ter-Petrossian’s election campaign chief, are scheduled to go on trial December 19 on charges of plotting a coup and organizing "mass disturbances" for that purpose.

Harutiunian reserved judgment on the controversial cases.

"We don’t want to meddle in the judicial process,” he said. “Let us not prevent the prosecution and the defense lawyers from making their cases and let us see how the judge behaves at that trial and only then express opinions.”

Harutiunian is an outspoken critic of the government’s crackdown on opposition demonstrators on March 1, in which 10 people were killed. He has dismissed official justification for the use of force.

The fatalities followed days of protests against the conduct of the country's February 19 presidential election, in which then-Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian claimed victory with an official result of 53 percent of the vote. Ter-Petrossian, his main opponent in the contest, disputed the results, alleging the election was marred by numerous irregularities.

(by Karine Kalantarian of RFE/RL's Armenian Service)

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