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Armenian Opposition Activists Go On Trial

Opposition activists Davit Kiramijian (left) and Sargis Gevorgian at the start of their trial in Yerevan on July 14
YEREVAN -- Two men arrested during a recent opposition protest in Yerevan went on trial on charges their supporters say are politically motivated, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Davit Kiramijian and Sargis Gevorgian were among some 15 people detained on May 31 during clashes between riot police and several dozen supporters of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).

The police forcibly kept the opposition activists from entering the city's newly renovated Liberty Square, the main venue for political gatherings in Armenia since the late 1980s.

All detainees except Kiramijian, Gevorgian, and his sister Ani -- a journalist with the pro-opposition "Haykakan Zhamanak" daily -- were released later that day. The Gevorgians were set free pending investigation three days later, while Kiramijian was remanded in two-month, pretrial detention.

A Yerevan court unexpectedly ordered the 19-year-old university student's release earlier this month.

Faced with an uproar from local media groups, the police decided not to press charges against Ani Gevorgian. But they charged her brother with "shoving" a police officer and tearing off one of his epaulettes.

Kiramijian, for his part, stands accused of "hooliganism." The police claim he verbally abused and beat up a passerby together with several other HAK activists.

Both men pleaded not guilty to the accusations at the start of the trial on July 14. Their defense lawyer, Melania Arustamian, said the case was "fabricated" for political purposes.

"There is no evidence to substantiate the accusations," Arustamian told RFE/RL. "We will be fighting for their acquittal."